BELLAIRE - Bellaire residents were informed by letter this week that an issue occurred with the village's water system in early February, but Bellaire Water Treatment Plant Superintendent John Polston says the village's water supply was never in any danger.
"In order to ensure proper disinfection, water in the treatment plant must be in contact with chlorine or a similar disinfectant for a minimum amount of time," the letter to water customer states. "On Feb. 1-4, 2014, this did not occur."
The issue pertained to the reporting of "contact time" required by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, according to Polston. Contact time is the measurement of time it takes for chlorine or other disinfectants to kill contaminants in water, and the Environmental Protection Agency specifies how long the disinfectant must be in the water to eliminate specific contaminants.
Polston said the village also found contaminants in a water well as they worked to drill a new one, and they had to first test the water to determine what the specific contaminant was before it could be treated. There was a period of uncertainty as to whether the amount of chlorine in the water met EPA standards, and the village was required to inform its water customers.
"Everything was fine with the water," Polston said. "There was nothing wrong with water, and it was fine to drink. The only issue was with reporting the contact time. ... There might have been the possibility there was not enough disinfectant in the system (during the days in question.)"
Bellaire has installed new intake equipment for its water system. Village workers were in the process of drilling a new well, when the work caused new contaminants to enter the old well. The contaminants were tested and identified as nitrates and nitrites, according to Polston. According to the EPA, these are naturally-occurring chemicals used in fertilizers, in rodenticides (to kill rodents) and as food preservatives. Sodium nitrite is a food additive that is used as a preservative.
Polston said he took over as superintendent Feb. 5 - the day after the contaminants were eliminated. But it fell to him to notify residents of the issue.
"I wish it didn't occur, but there were some new things there we needed to test for," he said. "Until we determined the problem, we didn't know."