HUDSON — In an effort to reduce operating costs, the city is planning to construct a brine well next to its water treatment plant.
City Council agreed on March 6 to have the administration seek bids on the project, which is estimated to cost nearly $1.2 million.
The city wants to install the well to produce its own brine that would be used in the drinking water plant’s water softening system. City Manager Jane Howington noted that officials have also discussed using the well to provide brine that the service department can use on city streets.
Jody Roberts, the city’s communications manager, said having the well would save the city money on brine purchases. Kevin Powell, an assistant public works director, added that having the well would eliminate truck deliveries of rock salt to the water treatment plant.
The water treatment plant part of the well would cost $936,237, while the service department share is $252,632, according to a memo from Howington to City Council.
The city is planning to issue notes to finance the construction of the well, according to the memo.
Howington said Council previously gave the go-ahead to bid and award a contract to build the brine well, but said Councilors wanted to discuss the issue again before moving forward.
Following the discussion March 6, Councilors favored moving ahead with the project for the water department, but want to assess the bids and other options before determining whether the well would also be used by the service department. That's because a financial analysis performed by Finance Director Jeff Knoblauch showed the city would see a net savings on water department costs in the first year of the well operation, but the service department is not projected to break even until the fourth year.
Noting that the weather plays a major role in the amount of road salt used, Knoblauch said it is tougher to project the costs associated with the service department.
"The water treatment plant one is pretty clear," said Knoblauch. "The service department one, there’s not a lot of downside, there’s not a lot of upside."
Mayor David Basil said the cost assumptions are "a lot more vague" with the service department portion than the water department part. He added that if the water department portion of the brine well was done, the service department's use "can always be added on."
Knoblauch said the city can assess the bids once they come in, and continue to examine other options on the service department issue.
Council member Dennis Hanink (Ward 1) said constructing the well for the water department was "a no-brainer."
"We stand to see a small benefit immediately," said Hanink, who added he wanted to have more discussion about whether the service department would use the brine well.
Council member Dr. J. Dan Williams (At Large) noted that Assistant City Manager Frank Comeriato has had preliminary discussions with ODOT about "maybe having other demands for the brine that we can make some money on."
Even with the payback coming later on the service department part, Williams said, "it doesn't make any sense to me to just do one and not the other. I think it makes sense to do both [for the water and service departments]."
Knoblauch said he is projecting that the water department will see a net savings of $14,770 in the first year of the well's operation. That savings is the same for either a projected six percent increase in the salt price or a 12 percent hike in the salt price.
If the salt price goes up by six percent, the cumulative three-year savings is projected at $61,116, according to Howington's memo. If the price rises by 12 percent, the cumulative three-year savings is projected at $79,242.
On the service department side, Knoblauch performed two different analyses involving salt purchase and reduction in salt use. Assuming an 8 percent increase in the price of salt and a 20 percent reduction in salt use (due to using more brine), the service department would first break even on the investment in the fourth year. Assuming a 4 percent increase in the price of salt and a 10 percent reduction in salt use, the break-even point would happen in the seventh year.
How the well would be constructed
Howington emphasized that the process being used for the project is not fracking.
To construct the well, Powell said the city is working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA on obtaining the needed permits, as well as a consultant who specializes in this type of work.
Powell said the city will drill down about 3,000 feet, which is not as far down as "the oil and gas strata." A staggered section of various sizes of pipe will descend to "varied depths" until it reaches the 2,800-foot to 3,000-foot mark, where the salina layer is located, said Powell.
He said pressurized water pumped into the well "dissolves the salina layer down there, and then the pressure that we're pushing down pushes back up the brine. With everything being sealed off, we're not getting leaks back into the groundwater tables or into the ground at all."
He said the well has to be tested periodically and added the EPA requires the city to have sample testing wells on the property "just to ensure that there's not any leakage or there’s no contamination into the groundwater." Powell said the city also has to have electronic leak detection devices on the site, too.
"There’s a bunch of measures that are being put in place to prevent any hazards and give us forewarning if there’s any kind of problems at all," said Powell.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.