City seeks permits on new wells

Columbus City Utilities is preparing to add four new water wells to its well field.

According to a notice from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the city has submitted construction permits for projects described as “Well 20, 21,22, & 23 – WATER MAIN & WELL” and “Well No. 20, 21, 22, & 23.” Utilities engineer Ashley Getz said that these are for the same project.

Comments on these applications must be postmarked no later than Oct. 28 and Oct. 29, respectively, to be considered in IDEM’s decision. Comments most likely to affect the verdict are those based on rules and laws governing the process.

Wellfield improvements are a priority for the utility, according to a list of projects on its website. The project description includes constructing wells 20-23 within the South Wellfield and raw water mains to increase supply capacity to Water Treatment Plant No. 2.

“The current well capacity is lower than the water treatment capacity of Water Treatment Plant No. 2,” according to the application. “The new wells are needed to maintain public water supply during peak demand times in summer months now and in the future. The need for the new wells was identified in the Utility Master Plan.”

The estimated cost of this project is about $2.95 million. Getz said that utilities officials are still determining if it would be more cost-effective to use a State Revolving Fund loan or private bond as the funding source. The project is among those made possible by the recent water rate increase approved for the city.

The anticipated schedule for construction is April to November of 2022. Strand Associates, Inc. has been contracted for the project design.

Getz said that these are additional wells for capacity, rather than replacements for two wells shut down in recent years.

In October of 2017, two wells — No. 14 and No. 15 — in the South Wellfield were shut down due to the detection of 1,4 dioxane, which is considered “a likely human carcinogen” by federal environmental regulators.

Columbus is one of several Indiana cities that tested above the .35 parts per billion Environmental Protection Agency recommended limit for the industrial solvent, testing at .48 parts per billion in the city water system in 2013.

The city has not replaced the two wells, according to Getz.

“We’ve not really decided what to do with those,” she said. She added that even aside from the shutdown of the two wells, there was a need for more capacity.