Bowling Green gets by with a little help from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Thanks to a new ordinance approved by city council, infrastructure could see an upgrade within the next year.
The ordinance, approved on Jan. 19, allows the utilities director to apply for a loan and execute an agreement with the Ohio EPA to design improvements for the village water main. The new main will offer an improved system of getting water to Bowling Green residents with less of a chance of a break or any other malfunctions.
According to Utilities Director Brian O’Connell, the new main is estimated to cost around $1.6 million. If a loan is secured with the EPA, all that’s left to do is get everything together with the contractors and begin construction.
“... construction would likely be into later this year and into 2022, but it may take anywhere from nine months to twelve months for all the work to be completed,” he said. “The hard part with water main replacement is that we have to keep the existing water main operational while the new main is being constructed.”
Sewer replacements, O’Connell said, are less complicated because construction workers can remove the existing system and put the new system in without affecting customers.
Short Elliot Hendrickson, an infrastructure design firm, said pressure changes and ground settling can often be the cause of water main breaks. In Bowling Green, however, the primary reason for a series of water main breaks occurred due to a combination of corrosive soil, age and the material of the pipes.
“There’s a group of homes that were built in the ‘60s or ‘70s, there’s some (built) in the '50s possibly when it got started,” O’Connell said. “There’s several streets in there and the water line, the sewer lines, the roads, they were all built around the same time and … we experienced some water main breaks on one of the main streets. And so when the water main breaks, we have to shut the water service off to however many customers are affected and they lose water service during that time.”
To prevent future issues based on material, the pipes could be made of PVC. The valves and other fittings keeping the main sealed, however, will still be made of metal.
“Some soils have more corrosive nature than others and when you have older pipe that is ductile iron or cast iron, they tend to have more problems with that than plastic pipes, for example,” O’Connell said. “So when we use PVC pipe the pipe itself doesn’t corrode but the metal fittings, valves, those things can corrode.”
When a water main breaks, it can result in diminished quality of water from sediment or other outside materials. According to Dr. Tim Davis from Bowling Green State University’s biology department, this is what causes utility companies to notify residents to boil their water to ensure its safety. A new water main means breaks would be less likely and less often.
“As water leaves the treatment plant, you’re not going to have bacterial contamination or anything like that in those lines,” Davis said. “Whenever a water main gets broken, they do the ‘boil your water’ and things like that until they can get it fixed.”
Davis and O’Connell both said that, considering water treatment comes from the Maumee river before going through a rigorous treatment process, the new water main will not affect quality of the water. In fact, a brand new, stable and sealed main ensuring less breaks will offer less of a chance for outside sediment from contaminating the water.
Another concern with the construction of the main is making sure customers still have water during the switch from the old main to the new.
“It’s a lengthier process, a little more complicated in how you hook up customers and maintain service while also trying not to unnecessarily destroy the road, the curbs that are out there, driveways and deal with residents during the construction,” O’Connell said. “It’s a fluid process.” Construction is not expected to be set back due to any restrictions or guidelines set because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the new main may not be completed by the end of 2021, the replacement is necessary and set to be a net positive for the distribution and continuity of Bowling Green's water.