The element phosphorus is an essential mineral that is required by every cell in the human body for normal function. That's good for the body – not so good when large amounts of the mineral show up in the discharge from a city's waste water treatment facility. That's a major issue the City of Carmi is currently facing. Too much phosphorus is being discharged from Carmi's waste water treatment facility. A recent test showed the Carmi plant was discharging 3.17 milligrams of phosphorus per liter. Government rules require that amount to be 1.0 or less. The source of the excess phosphorus is said to be agricultural runoff. To fix the problem – as mandated by both the Illinois and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies – Carmi will have to find the money to complete what will likely be a major infrastructure project.
Addressing the issue during the June 4 meeting of the Carmi City Council, waste water treatment plant foreman Don Davis told aldermen there are a number options available to reduce the amount of phosphorus being discharged from the waste water treatment plant. “The issue can be addressed biologically or chemically,” Davis said. “It would cost around $250,000 to fund a biological fix or perhaps $50,000 per year to fix it chemically.” Davis added that the city will have to eventually decide on what option to pursue and come up with the funds to implement a fix. Whatever the city decides, the clock is ticking, Davis told the council. “Building a whole new waste water treatment plant would be the simple solution,” Davis added. “But that would cost millions.”
Any day now, the City of Carmi is expected to receive a permit to implement a phosphorus abatement plan. Once issued, the city will essentially have three years to implement the plan. Two of those years are reserved for construction. City officials say they will now begin the process of seeking grants and other funding options for completing the EPA mandated improvements to the plant.
The city council voted unanimously to award bids for reworking the city's sewage sludge beds. Officials said a typical sludge bed has an operational life of about twenty years. The facility was last reworked some 31 years ago – eleven years overdue. The cost to rework the sludge beds was pegged at $297,000. Funding will come from money the city acquired when cash from a municipal revolving loan fund was dissolved and deposited in the city's coffers.
Carmi councilmen voted unanimously to spend just over $41,000 to resurface a number of tennis courts at Bradshaw Park. The cost to resurface the two back courts will be just under $25,000. Resurfacing one additional court will cost a little over $16,000. Work on the removal and replacement of various sections of fencing will be completed by municipal workers which will result in significant savings on the court improvement project. Mayor Pollard says he expects the work will be completed by late August – in time to be used by the Carmi-White County High School tennis team.
The council unanimously approved an updated electric utility ordinance that was drawn up to make properties safer – especially for local firefighters. The city's electrical engineer, David Coston says the new ordinance will require the establishment of a power cutoff at each property in the city. Responding firefighters will be able to kill the power at a fire scene themselves without having to wait for a electric line crew to be dispatched. The new ordinance also clarifies what the city utility department will and will not do when it comes to maintaining electric service – especially buried (underground) electrical service. These new requirements will go into effect as property owners make repairs or upgrades to their electrical service. At that time, each property owner will have to comply with the newly updated ordinance. Copies of the ordinance will be made available at city hall for area contractors and electricians so there will be no question about updated safety and other requirements.
Coston also updated the council on efforts to repair or replace one of the power plant's generators – generator number 11. Coston says the whole issue of bringing the generator back on line lies with the insurance company covering the failed engine. Officials have acknowledged that the generator was knocked out of commission by a “catastrophic failure” versus a maintenance failure. The city is now waiting for a decision on how much the insurance company will pay to make repairs or even replace the generator. One estimate to repair the generator was put at around $400,000. However, the insurance company says it would likely be closer to $500,000 to $600,000. Coston says he hopes to have a definitive answer from the insurance company in the coming days.
Getting generator number 11 back up and running has become a priority because the city is expected to run its generators more than in the past. Officials with the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IEMA) require the power generating units be up and ready to produce power within two hours of notification. There is a penalty if the City of Carmi fails to comply with the requirement.
Mayor Pollard told councilmen that the Carmi-White County High School board has approved funding for another year of the police department providing a school resource officer. The availability of a school resource officer is contingent upon a year-to-year contract with the local school district.
In other council news, Mayor Pollard announced pool hours and activities for the summer. The Carmi municipal pool will be open to swimmers from 12 noon until 5:30 pm Monday through Friday. Water Aerobics classes will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays 3 from 5:30 pm – 6:15 pm. The cost is $5 per session with Emily Williams as the instructor.
There will be free swim Fridays on June 14, 21 and 28 from 12 noon until 5:30 pm. Tuesday night family time will be held on June 18 and 5 from 6 – 8 pm. Admission is $1 per person or $5 per family of over five people.
Tuesday daytime hours during the month of June will be 12 noon until 5 pm. The pool will remain closed from 5 pm – 6 pm. Additionally, the pool will close at 5 pm on June 11 and 27.
Workers with the Carmi street and alley department have started the process of spraying for mosquitoes. Spraying activity will be contingent upon the weather.
And, a resident of North Fifth Street in Carmi asked the council to clarify its animal ordinance as it applies to chickens. The resident keeps a few hens in a fenced-in area of her yard and wants to be able to keep the chickens without being in conflict with any animal ordinances. Mayor Pollard said he would research the issue and get back to with his constituent.