City faces major issues with water production, waste
During the June 15 meeting of Carlinville’s City Council, members heard a report from Public Works Director Tim Hasara regarding a list of stipulations and conditions the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) have attached to the city’s most recent waste water National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
Hasara explained that the city has been issued the extensive list of stipulations due to a lack of response and communication with the IEPA that took place in the two to five years prior to a February 2013 inspection of the waste water treatment plant.
Hasara explained that since the city of Carlinville did not provide the necessary communication with the IEPA in the years prior to the 2013 inspection, the EPA became involved, which caused heavy stipulations to be place on the most recent permit, which goes into effect July 1. “There was an EPA field inspection of the waste water treatment plant on Feb. 28, 2013. In that field inspection, there were several deficiencies noted with non-compliance,” explained Hasara, who said the deficiencies relate to the combined sewer overflow (CSO) issue.
Hasara went on to point out that the city’s engineering firm at the time, HMG Engineers, failed to do a required CSO first-flush study and a long-term control pollutant program, as they were hired to do by the city. “It didn’t get done. It didn’t get completed,” said Hasara. As a result of the city’s non-compliance, correspondence was sent to the city from the IEPA requesting that representatives from the city attend meetings at the IEPA office. The city did not respond to those meeting requests.
Hasara explained that the city’s current CSO project between Plum and South Broad, which is being funded through a Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant, will address part of the stipulations put forth by the EPA, but not everything. Hasara explained the full scope of the work that will be needed, including costs, is not yet known. He explained that he would like to involve engineering firm Heneghan and Associates to study the issues and come up with estimates on the work that will have to be done and the costs associated with that work. Hasara also explained that there are timelines (six, 12 and 18 months) put forth by the EPA that the city is required to meet in order to fulfill the obligations required on the permit.
“Because of non-compliance on these other issues, the US EPA got involved on this new permit for Carlinville and significance and the impact of this is tremendous,” he said.
Hasara went on to explain that he and his staff will do as much as they can in-house, but there are many things that will require the work of engineers, and that work will have to start immediately.
The board approved a motion allowing Hasara to work with Heneghan and Associates to develop a plan to fulfill the requirements of the waste treatment plant’s operating permit.
Moving on to the water plant, Hasara explained that while the water plant foreman was filling out his required paperwork on June 2, he noticed and immediately reported a May 13 instance during which the city’s water exceeded the legal level of turbidity. As a result, the city will publish a violation notice in the Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat.
Hasara explained that three IEPA officials came to Carlinville to inspect the water plant and were prepared to fine the city for the May 13 incident, but after seeing all the work being done to improve the water plant, the inspectors decided not to issue a fine but required the city to run the public notices and put a plan in place to make sure such an incident doesn’t happen again.
The high levels of turbidity have caused activities at the lake to be limited. Turbidity is the rate at which particulates are suspended in the water, causing it to become cloudy and dark. Lake activities have been restricted in order to help curb turbidity, which is exacerbated by high rainfall amounts and water levels.
In another water issue, Hasara reported he had received a notice from the IEPA regarding 16 instances (four from 2005, two from 2006, six from 2007, two from 2008, one from 2010 and one from 2012) when the city failed to provide appropriate documentation to the state to receive operating permits for projects that had been completed. Of particular concern is the operating permit for the transmission main project completed in 2007. “It was put in new from the plant all the way into town and was never bacterial sampled or got an operating permit,” said Hasara, noting that construction permits had been obtained from the IEPA, but once the projects were completed, the appropriate steps were not taken to get operating permits.
Hasara explained that he will be able to do a significant portion of the work to bring the water department into compliance, but he will have to start conducting the necessary tests and providing documentation immediately. He then explained that it is likely there are areas of the water plant that will need to be re-piped or re-configured so that the correct testing can be done at various stages of the water treatment process. For that work, he asked for, and was given, permission from the council to consult with an engineer.
When asked by Councilman Beth Toon what fines are associated with being out of compliance, Hasara said no fines had been issued yet, but if the city doesn’t act to get in compliance within 45 days, fines will likely be assessed. He added that he believes he can complete the testing and documentation in enough time to avoid fines.
The hope is that no other issues are found during the testing process.
Alderman Joe Direso expressed his concern about such non-compliance happening again. Hasara explained that, for the last two years, he has had a procedure in place to see that all compliance documentation has to be signed by both him and the mayor. Demuzio added that all notices that come into the office are signed and copies are made for the mayor, the city clerk and the public works director.
In a related manner, the board approved a request from Woodard and Curran to put together a proposal to do the city’s water treatment work. It was noted that no proposal was requested and it will be presented at no expense to the city. It was noted that it would be interesting to see what Woodard and Curran comes up with.
Demuzio addresses meeting decorum
Mayor Deanna Demuzio opened the meeting by telling members of the council that several of the city’s committee chairs have requested that council members be reminded of the appropriate protocol that needs to take place during meetings. She asked that members wait to speak in an orderly fashion.
“The decorum on the floor is very important — what you do, what you say and the way you react. I want to remind everyone of that. When you have something to say, all you have to do is just raise your hand and you will be called upon. It’s very simple. We had some committee meetings last week where people were talking over one another, talking at one another. Everyone seemed to want to talk at the same time. It’s very disruptive, particularly for the committee chair,” said Demuzio, adding that no one has ever been denied the opportunity to speak, but protocol must be followed.
Demuzio also told the board that the committee chairs have requested that council members attending meetings of committees of which they are not a part sit in the audience rather than at the table.
“Let’s just be mindful so everyone has an opportunity to talk,” Demuzio said.
Plum Street update
In light of the information Hasara presented regarding the challenges facing the city’s waste water and water production compliance, the board agreed to delay beginning work on Plum Street until they have a better idea of the scope of the work needed to bring the city’s waste water treatment and water production systems into compliance with the state.
Councilman Randy Bilbruck requested that Ron Paul of Heneghan and Associates provide the council with a menu of features that can be added and removed from the Plum Street project in an effort to manage costs.
The board agreed to complete engineering on both the north and south sections of the project with the knowledge that the information can be used at a later date when the city decides to move forward with the work on Plum Street.
The board accepted the resignation of full-time dispatcher Matthew Perry, noting that his letter of resignation will be placed on file. The board also approved motions to move part-time dispatcher Nick Hanscom to the full-time position and to advertise for and hire three part-time dispatchers.
Following an executive session, the board approved a motion to dismiss part-time probationary water plant employee Dave Robinson and waste treatment operator Kenny Gunning. It was noted that Gunning’s dismissal was due to the fact that he has run out of family medical leave time but is still unable to return to work.
The board also approved a motion to put the bid box out for the required time in order to fill the vacant position at the water plant. If the position is not filled through the bid box process, the motion allows the city to then advertise for the position.
When Demuzio opened the floor for public comment, Norm Semrock took the floor to inform the council about his efforts to hold a meeting with a city employee regarding some suggestions he has for the city. Without mentioning the name of the employee, Semrock said he was told not only that the person in the appointed position didn’t want to meet with him but that council approval must be given to pay for the expense of paying the employee to meet with Semrock because the employee is paid hourly on an as-needed basis.
“I find it, as a citizen, unfortunate that a city official, appointed, who… I don’t think it’s a trivial thing. I realize I have questioned a number of things over the years. I try not to bring up trivial things. Of course, that may be in the mind of whoever brings them up. I can understand that. I’m really disappointed at that response,” said Semrock.
The mayor and the council listened quietly to Semrock’s comments. When he finished, Demuzio thanked him for bringing his concerns before the council.
After Semrock left the floor, Councilman Joe Direso expressed his appreciation to Dale Lowrance, Mark Kanllakan and his children Jack and Quincy, and Assistant Fire Chief Jess McKee of the Carlinville Fire Department for bringing out the city’s 1924 fire truck for the Blue Carpet Corridor event on Saturday.
In addition, Demuzio expressed her appreciation to all those who made the Blue Carpet Corridor day in Carlinville a success. She particularly pointed out the efforts of members of the Standard Addition Neighborhood Association (SANA) that conducted tours of neighborhood homes during the event.
Direso pointed out that SANA has new brochures available in the lobby of city hall.
A motion was approved accepting the annual prevailing wage ordinance.
Regarding a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Committee to change the language defining “family” in Carlinville’s City Code, the council agreed to send the issue, along with a list of their concerns, back to committee for further review.
The board approved the minutes of the previous meeting, the budget officer/treasurer’s report, the police/fire report and the monthly bills.
Following the executive session, the council approved a motion releasing the executive session minutes from May 4, 2015; Dec. 11, 2014, and Oct. 6, 2014.
As part of the city’s correspondence, the council approved a motion to place on file a letter from Carlinville’s Winning Communities thanking the city for a donation of $500 toward the Independence Day fireworks that will take place July 5 at the fairgrounds.