The city plans to begin an investigation program for groundwater testing in early 2018 as a precautionary measure after contaminants were found a month ago.

The city’s utilities board last week approved a resolution authorizing Columbus City Utilities to spend up to $350,000 in implementing the program, which will involve hiring an outside firm.

Two wells south of the city’s treatment plant were taken out of service in November after the chemical 1,4-dioxane was discovered, but the city wants to take proactive steps moving forward, utilities director Keith Reeves said.

“Time is critical,” Reeves said.

The two wells remain offline for the time being and Reeves said the investigation will involve developing a groundwater model that will help predict whether contaminants are moving in certain directions. The investigation will just involve the city’s southern aquifer — not its well at Lincoln Park, Reeves said.

The development of the groundwater model also will help the city determine the placement of new wells that may be installed in the future, he said. The utilities department is in negotiations with firms on the scope of work that would be required.

“We want to get things rolling in January,” he said.

Reeves estimated the investigation would likely take five to six months to complete, adding that the two wells will continue to remain offline into the foreseeable future. A third city well shut down at the fairgrounds following an E. coli contamination incident earlier this year could be brought back online in early 2018, he said.

Reeves said the investigation is being done as a precautionary measure and stressed there should be no cause for concern from the public.

Results of the study will be disclosed to the public and the city utilities board when it is completed.

“We want to be proactive and responsive to it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reeves, 64, announced he intends to retire July 31, 2018, after 38 years. The city plans to launch a search for his replacement.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com