"If this is our only source of water then we need to have a plan to address that," says Allen Mounts, Director of the Evansville Water and Sewer Utility. "Similar to if I'm driving one car and it breaks down and I can't drive to work, then it's a problem. If I have two cars I still at least have a back up that I can use."
Mounts points to two "very eye-opening" events this year that made him recognize the need for a second facility. The first was January's extreme cold that left the utility scrambling to repair hundreds of water main breaks. Low water pressure and boil advisories spread through the city like wildfire.
Then, it was a chemical spill. It started in West Virginia and fortunately diluted by the time it made its way to Evansville. Mounts says if a lengthy spill happened closer to home, Evansville wouldn't have the capacity to turn off its intakes and the city would quickly use up the plant's eight million gallons of stored water. He says, on average, the city uses more than three times that each day.
For now it's a distant idea, but officials say the water treatment plant would likely operate in a different manner than its more than century old predecessor. The current facility is a surface water treatment plant. It receives all water from the Ohio River.
A second plant would likely utilize a ground water system. Pulling water from underground would eliminate some of the major risks the city faces by getting all of its water from the river.
"It filters out some of the impurities so if you have a chemical spill it wouldn't reach down into the ground because the chemicals typically stay on the water's surface," says Mounts.
He suggests a ground water system would also help cut back on costly water main breaks, many of which are caused directly by the icy river. Most of the city's water main breaks happen when the Ohio River drops into frigid temperatures.
"When it gets extremely cold the metal contracts and expands and the lines break," says Mounts.
It's a plan years in the making, another possible investment targeting the city's aging underground infrastructure. Mounts says it could take at least four or five years for the idea of a second water treatment plant to get to the production stage. It's too early to tell how much the facility would cost.
"These are ongoing investments for an infrastructure that a majority of it is one-hundred plus years old," says Mounts. "I wished I could flip a switch and it happen tonight and it all be fixed and it all be well, but because of the size of this it's gonna take some time."
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