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From Service-Safety Director Andy Stone, PE:
While the situation in East Palestine is a devastating ecological disaster affecting air and water quality around Eastern Ohio, the City of Athens well fields are safe and have additional measures in place to continue to provide clean, safe drinking water for residents even if a disaster were to strike in Athens.
The city’s source water protection area is in western Athens. We have 17 wells positioned in three different sub-areas of the city’s aquifer, with one being at the end of Armitage Rd., one in the West State Street Park, and one near O’Blenness Hospital. These wells pull from a sand and gravel aquifer about 30’ to 60’ deep. The water is then sent to the water treatment plant on West State St. where it is aerated, filtered, softened, and chlorinated before being pumped out into the system.
We have an extremely aggressive source water protection program (Athens City Code title 39 https://library.municode.com/oh/athens/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT39WEPRPL) with a team of city officials, health department officials, and outside consultants who monitor potential threats and take preemptive action to mitigate them. The wellhead protection team meets monthly.
The largest threat to our aquifer is from a spill in the source water protection area, particularly near a well. We monitor the Kanawha River Railroad very closely, as a derailment in Athens similar to what happened in East Palestine would be a big concern. Indeed, our fire department has practiced response to such a disaster, and the reason we maintain as many wells as we do is so we could shut off those contaminated should a spill occur and still be able to provide water from other wells. Finally, as a groundwater plant, rather than a surface water plant, we have an additional layer of protection in the filtration provided by the ground.
If you are interested in learning more about our water, here is a link to our recent Consumer Confidence reports https://www.ci.athens.oh.us/DocumentCenter/Index/83