Monday, October 12, 2015

Don't Flush Your Vote Down the Toilet

Avon Lake Regional Water is in the midst of a $100-million improvement program funded through the rates we charge for water and wastewater services. For Avon Lake readers, if you care how this is spent, then you should care about the upcoming election November 3, 2015, where three members will be elected to the Board of Municipal Utilities.
The founding fathers of Avon Lake showed significant insight when they formed the Board of Municipal Utilities as an independent board. Independent utility boards are able to focus solely on water and wastewater management issues, a very detail- and capital-oriented endeavor. This singular focus ensures the organization is operated in the best manner possible to provide excellent service today, tomorrow, and long into the future. Raising funds to keep our water infrastructure working (and raising rates in order to make it happen) doesn’t win political elections, but it does keep rates lower in the long-run than deferring maintenance and keeping rates steady.
 Raising funds to keep our water infrastructure working (and raising rates in order to make it happen) doesn’t win political elections, but it does keep rates lower in the long-run than deferring maintenance and keeping rates steady.
Perhaps more important, with the freedom to consider the big picture, rather than the next election, comes the opportunity to make big decisions that reap big rewards for ratepayers. For example, the original decision to offer water outside our city led to Avon Lakers having one of the lowest water rates in the state. 
The Avon Lake Board of Municipal Utilities first met in 1929 to oversee operations of the brand new water filtration plant. Since that time, the Board has overseen the construction of our first wastewater treatment plant, the regionalization of water sales and wastewater collection, and now the resiliency-increasing measures to help mitigate potential environmental concerns such as toxic algae and icing.

Board members are Avon Lake citizens elected at-large to serve 4-year terms. This November, three of our five members will be elected. In 2017, two of five members will be elected. The staggered terms are meant to reduce the chances for too much turnover at once.

For probably the first time ever, there are six candidates for the three open positions: Anthony Abram, Robert Berner (incumbent), John Dzwonczyk (incumbent), Randy Phillips (incumbent), Dana Schnabel, and C.J. Tyree. Some have even set up election pages (John Dzwonczyk and C.J. Tyree so far). On October 7, 2015, Avon Lake Community Television recorded a discussion with the candidates hosted by the Cable Advisory Committee so that we may make educated decisions when we each vote for up to three candidates on November 3 (see

Within the past 18 months, the Board has been working with staff to update the strategic plan. The Board's vision for Avon Lake Regional Water is to be a trusted and treasured community asset that enhances quality of life. Soon, the Board will affirm the agenda staff will be working to complete during the next four years. These initiatives will help assure a safe and reliable water system, enhance water quality, help mitigate cost impacts on customers, and provide information through various outreach efforts. Board input is critical, because these projects are paid exclusively through user fees—which include the rates we all pay for water and wastewater services. 
The Board's vision for Avon Lake Regional Water is to be a trusted and treasured community asset that enhances quality of life.
Avon Lake Regional Water is your water and wastewater service provider, and the Board of Municipal Utilities is the governing authority. The Board represents the citizens of Avon Lake to assure that staff members are making the correct decisions to provide the region with quality water services. Do your research. (We hope to help you by setting up a page on with candidate information soon.)  Don't flush your vote down the toilet. Learn about the candidates and vote.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Drinking Fountain: A Symbol of Our Country’s Greatness

A few weeks ago, I was reading an opinion piece about drinking fountains on The piece talked about how drinking fountains used to be "a revered feature of urban life," but attitudes have now changed. What is free is not appreciated.
Public drinking fountains, like fire hydrants, represent the immense investment that public utilities have made to protect public health and ensure prosperity. They show that utilities have invested trillions of dollars across the country to assure that you, firefighters, businesses have the water you need, when you need it. And, if you get thirsty while you are walking or playing sports at the park, all you have to do is press a button for all the water you want to satiate your thirst.
On a weekend in July, I was taking a bicycle ride with my family on the North Coast Inland Trail, a 13-mile long "rails-to-trails" park in Lorain County, Ohio. There are two drinking fountains along the length of the trail. I, my family, and several others certainly appreciated and made good use of those fountains.
I believe very strongly in the importance of drinking fountains and what they represent. In fact, within the last year, my organization has provided water-bottle filling stations to Avon Lake City Schools, Avon Lake Public Library, Avon Lake City Hall, and elsewhere. Today, many people carry refillable water bottles with them to assure they are hydrated.
That is great. I believe people should not have to pay $1 or more to have the water that they are carrying be bottled water—especially when 80% of all water bottles are not recycled. If they bring a reusable bottle with them, they can fill up for free.
As part of the agreement to provide the water-bottle filling stations, we are providing water-related factoids above the filling stations. We hope this information will help remind users about the good choices they are making to take a drink or refill their bottle and will, over time, hopefully prompt them to convince others to do the same.
Water utilities will not go out of business due to market share lost to the bottled water industry. The average American now drinks 34 gallons of bottled water a year (I drink 0.), which means the average family drinks 100 gallons of bottled water per year. When one considers lost revenue for both water and wastewater, we have lost less than $0.50 per year per household. (Compare that to the $250 to $1,000 each family has spent on bottled water, and one wonders why people buy bottled water.)
The reason we promote drinking fountains is because we want people to understand and appreciate the investment, begun generations ago, that gives us what we all enjoy today, including the water delivered to the drinking fountains that quench your thirst, the toilets that flush away disease, the hydrants that save us and our homes from fires, and the running water for industries that provide countless livelihoods. I certainly thank you for filling your reusable bottle, and hope you smile whenever you refill as you remember part of the reason this country is great is because of the investment we all have made, via our federal tax dollars (for the former grants programs and the current revolving loan programs) and payments of rates to water utilities, in the systems that provide water across this incredible land.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Keeping Your Water Safe from Algal Toxins

Avon Lake Regional Water works hard to provide safe, reliable, affordable water to your sink, toilet, shower, irrigation system—wherever and whenever you need it. All for about $1/day, we do this and then collect, clean, and return to Lake Erie the water you use.

One of the newest threats we protect you from is toxic algae. Water utilities, regulators, academics, and others are placing significant effort on improving understanding about microcystin and other toxins found in harmful algal blooms (HABs). Just last month, USEPA issued draft health advisory levels for microcystin. These health advisory levels are set to be finalized in June, and Ohio EPA is determining how to best implement them. Advisory levels are not regulations. They are guidelines. In establishing these advisory levels (guidelines) for microcystin, USEPA has published separate acceptable levels for children younger than school age and for all others. The guidelines have been set to where USEPA knows of no ill effects for people exposed to these levels for 10 days.

Avon Lake Regional Water monitors for microcystin in both the raw water coming in from Lake Erie and the finished water being sent into the distribution system and then to you. In 2014, microcystin was measured above detection limits in the raw water coming in from the lake only once. It was never measured above detection limits in the finished water we provide to you. Current predictions are for this year's algae bloom to be less severe than last year.

We are confident in our ability to remove microcystin through the treatment process. However, in case algal blooms get much worse (and to do double duty to help mitigate icing events), you will begin seeing major changes at our water filtration plant. Starting in July, a large hole will be excavated in the field across the street from the plant. That is where we will construct new clearwells that will store 2 million gallons of water for use during emergencies. During the next two years, we will construct these clearwells and additional pumping and emergency power generation facilities. We will also rehabilitate several filters to improve treatment ability and convert some existing basins to allow water to be recycled within the plant and reduce the burden on the wastewater treatment facility—thereby reducing our impact on Lake Erie.

These improvements will be made using money from the state revolving loan fund. Through a competitive application, approximately $23 million will be loaned at a 0% interest rate. That will save our customers more than $250,000 per year for the next 20 years. We have also qualified for the 0%-interest loans for the 3 million gallons of elevated storage and the emergency interconnection with Elyria we hope to construct within the next two years. The 0% interest for these two projects should save an additional $100,000 per year.

During the past year, Avon Lake Regional Water has installed additional abilities to detect harmful algal blooms and microcystin, begun the construction of treatment and storage improvements, initiated design of an emergency interconnection with a neighboring utility, and started conversations for emergency interconnection with another utility. We strongly embrace our mission to provide the region with quality water services and strive to meet our vision of being a trusted and treasured community asset that enhances quality of life.

Avon Lake Regional Water is your water and wastewater service provider. Questions/comments? Contact us via phone (440-933-6226), email (, social media (Facebook: /avonlakewater, Twitter @avonlakewater, Instagram: avonlakewater), or in person (201 Miller Road). You can also learn more by watching our semi-monthly Board Recap show on ALC-TV’s government channel (Time Warner 12 or WOW! 21) or logging on to to see recap shows or Board meetings. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Worth of Water

"When the well is dry, we know the worth of water." Ben Franklin stated that in 1746. That was made all too real for approximately 500,000 in the greater-Toledo area last summer, when they could not drink their water for three days. Here in Avon Lake, we asked you to cut back on unnecessary usage at the onset of subzero temps—not the same, but not something we like asking you to do.

Some ask why I promote water conservation—irrigating only when necessary, keeping grass longer to shade roots, filling clothes and dishwashers before using them, installing efficient appliances… After all, the more you conserve water, the less revenue we receive.

I promote water conservation because I want to help break something called the "paradox of value (or the diamond-water paradox)." The philosopher Adam Smith wrote in 1776, "Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarcely anything; scarcely anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarcely any use-value; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it."

Nearly 240 years later, the same is still true. Water is something without which we will die. Yet, it costs less than a penny a day to get all you need to drink—about a dollar a day for the average family's needs—and that includes the costs to treat it and put it back into Lake Erie after you are done with it.

I want you to believe that is your best dollar spent each day. For that dollar per day, we are:
  • Removing algal toxins and other contaminants from the water we take from Lake Erie in order for you to drink high-quality tap water that meets all EPA standards;
  • Treating wastewater so that the water may be safely returned to the lake per EPA standards;
  • Maintaining and safeguarding the system to keep your water flowing without interruption, even during water main breaks.

During the recent past and foreseeable future, we will be continuing incremental rate increases to pay for new projects to make the drinking water system more resilient to icing, algae, and other issues; to improve the quality of treatment at the wastewater plant to reduce our contribution to Lake Erie algae;  and to separate sewers to reduce the frequency and amount of untreated sewage overflowing into the lake, which should help improve water quality at Veterans Beach and elsewhere.

We are incredibly fortunate to live beside 84% of the United States' fresh water. We take it for granted at our peril. With proper care and promotion, Lake Erie will be a reason industry considers relocation to Ohio and the Great Lakes region, especially as California, Texas, and other parts of the country continue experiencing some of the worst droughts (and highest water costs) in history. We want you to love your lake for all the things it means for your family and this area, from drinking water to recreation to tourism income. So, in 2015, we’ll be rolling out a “Love Your Lake” campaign to help remind you how much it means, and why you should help protect it. You will see more and more of it, leading up to our second annual Lake Erie WaterFest, happening August 8, 2015.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Future of Making Water Clean Again (Wastewater Treatment) in Ohio

On March 6, 2015, the Ohio Water Environment Association held its annual Government and Regulatory Affairs Workshop. It is a great event I enjoy attending every year because we hear directly from the top regulators in Ohio regarding their priorities and from others about hot topics. This year, the recurring theme was that it is time to act. This could be illustrated through the closing slide of the Ohio EPA (OEPA) Division of Surface Water Chief, Karl Gebhardt, which simply stated:

"Rhetoric is no substitute for action."
-Teddy Roosevelt

Fully an hour-and-a-half was provided to OEPA Director, Craig Butler, and OEPA Division of Surface Water Chief, Karl Gebhardt. Their two presentations focused on OEPA's restructuring to put "the right people in the right seats" and embrace "Lean Ohio," which is intended to make government simpler, better, faster, and less costly. The Director spoke a lot about OEPA restructuring to have two doors into which the regulated community such as wastewater treatment organizations would enter: one is for technical assistance and the other is for regulation and enforcement. They want to entice as many organizations as possible to enter through the technical assistance door (carrot) because the regulation/enforcement route is much less pleasant (stick). (My words, not theirs.)

Director Butler stated that 2014 was The Year of Water due to the events that happened in Toledo and elsewhere, and the OEPA 2015 priorities focused on water. Regarding Lake Erie, he stated that "the first flush is like a hypodermic needle into the watershed" regarding non-point source pollution. OEPA is working with the farming community to help reduce nutrient loading coming from farm fields. They are equally focused on the impacts septic systems and wastewater treatment plants have on receiving waters. They believe through improvements by all parties, positive steps will be made. Regarding Lake Erie, Director Butler said, "It's taken us a generation to get into this problem, and it will take us a long time to get out."

It appears that Ohio is committed to improving water quality and realizes that our economic future will be significantly impacted by water. To illustrate this, the OEPA Division of Surface Water Chief compared the economic potential of other countries to Ohio and the Great Lakes by stating:

"They have the oil, but we have water."
-Karl Gebhardt

The theme of acting now to help improve our future was further reinforced by David Rutter from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission in his presentation about a study performed regarding the potential impacts to the region due to increased climate variability/extremes. He talked about implementing "No Regrets" strategies. "No Regrets" strategies are strategies people have no regrets implementing even if the primary reason they are implementing them does not come to pass. For example, buying Ohio wind energy reduces carbon footprint and also invests in Ohio's economy. By investing in Ohio's economy, people have "no regrets" in purchasing power that might be more expensive. Another example would be utilities purchasing properties along water courses, razing the buildings, and building "stormwater parks." Even if flooding does not get worse and those properties are not flooded in the future, the public benefits of the parks would be worth the investment.

There were several other important talks at the Government Affairs Workshop that could be topics of other blogs. They will not be described here because I do not want to dilute the importance of the message in this blog: The time to act is now. Utilities and jurisdictions should start independently making steps forward, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because they will be required to do it anyway in the near future. Acting now allows for utilities and jurisdictions to be in charge of their own destiny.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Water: The Unsung Hero of Health

As I am sitting in a chair, having iodine placed on my arm, preparing to donate blood, I am reminded of the inextricable link between water utilities and public health. Just as the iodine swabbed on my arm prevents infection, so does the chlorine we add to drinking water. Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) named the chlorination of drinking water one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century? Typhoid and cholera are now virtually non-existent in the United States due this fact. Fluoridation of drinking water also rated inclusion in that ten-greatest list. Water utilities are responsible for one-fifth of the list. That’s a powerful illustration of how water and good health are inextricably linked.

In the spirit of these life-saving water-utility pioneers, Avon Lake Regional Water will be undertaking several projects this year to better protect your health by improving the way we protect your water supply and your lake.

First, we are working to expand the amount of water we can access for you. We are doing this two ways. One is a drinking water storage project that will provide five million gallons of additional drinking water to have on hand for emergencies. The other is an interconnection with a neighboring water system that will give each water utility access to the other’s water in times of need. Expanding our emergency water supply is an important safeguard. Not having water at your house for a small amount of time may seem like a huge inconvenience, but just consider the impact of a water outage on hospitals, fire hydrants, and those with medical conditions requiring handwashing or sterilization. Continuous water is a necessity for them. No one can predict the future, and this project will put us in position to handle extreme water needs in a wide variety of scenarios.

Second, we are undertaking multiple water line replacement projects this year. Replacing aging lines subject to breakage means a more reliable water supply (we have to shut down water service to your home during the process of repairing your water main). Moreover, one water line project this year will restore the capacity of the water line, allowing a much-improved flow for fire-fighting purposes.

Third, we will be starting a rehabilitation project at our wastewater treatment plant. The rehabilitation will both reduce the amount of water that bypasses our plant during wet-weather conditions and improve the level of treatment of water flowing through the plant. This, in turn, will improve the quality of water we discharge into Lake Erie, therefore better protecting you when you want to enjoy the lake.

Finally, we have begun planning the next combined sewer separation, which will be in the Fairfield-Brookfield area, breaking ground in 2016. Once this project is completed (2017), the quality of water in Heider Creek should improve, eventually helping to improve water quality at Veterans Park Beach—Avon Lake's beach that typically has higher bacteria counts after rain events.

As always, we are undertaking these projects to better serve you and ask for your patience if you are ever inconvenienced by them. We hope you agree a reliable water supply (including a healthy lake) is worth investing in.

Avon Lake Regional Water is your water and wastewater service provider. Questions/comments? Contact us via phone (440-933-6226), email (, social media (Facebook: /avonlakewater, Twitter @avonlakewater, and now Instagram), or in person (201 Miller Road). You can also learn more by watching our semi-monthly Board Recap show on ALC-TV’s government channel (Time Warner 12 or WOW! 21) or logging on to to see recap shows or Board meetings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Looking for a Few Good Men/Women

What are your thoughts about water and sewer? Do you care about the quality and cost for your water? Do you want to serve on the Board of Municipal Utilities?

Avon Lake Regional Water is your water and wastewater service provider. We’ve provided service for more than 85 years and intend to do so indefinitely. To assure that we are making decisions in your best interests, we are governed by a five member Board of Municipal Utilities. The Board is elected by you to four year terms. Recently, one of our Board members announced he is resigning. The Board is seeking candidates to fill the remainder of his term, which ends December 31, 2015.

 At its January 20, 2015 meeting, the Board will discuss how it wants to fill the vacated position. Because the term expires at the end of this year and the position will be filled in January 2016 by someone elected to it on November 3, 2015, the Board may give preference to those who submit a Nominating petition and Statement of Candidacy to the Lorain County Board of Elections by February 4, 2015.

Do you want to give back to your community? Do you want to assure that water and wastewater rates are appropriate? Do want to assure that the quality of your drinking water is excellent or the quality of the water returned to Lake Erie remains high? Do you want to assure that the level of service related to the City’s water and wastewater systems is memorable and the systems are maintained appropriately? Then maybe you should apply to serve on the Board of Municipal Utilities.

The Board of Municipal Utilities meets twice per month to assure that staff’s decisions best balance quality, quantity, cost, and service. The Board approves expenditures and contracts, sets rates, establishes policy, and provides input. The Board helps to set strategic direction for the organization.

Board members’ life experiences help them oversee operations of the utility. Current Board members include an engineer, a lawyer, a business owner/former City council member, and another business owner. The Board is looking for people with skills to complement those already on the Board. Obvious complements could be public relations, contracting/ construction, industry, human resources, entrepreneurship, environmental science, development… This list is in no way exhaustive. The most important aspect is to have a genuine care for helping the organization become even better for Avon Lake.

The Board is asking for candidates to send a statement of interest (cover letter) and resume to Todd Danielson, Chief Utilities Executive, at The Board will make an initial screening of potential applicants most likely after the February 4, 2015 candidacy filing deadline. Commitments for Board members include preparation for and attendance at two Board meetings per month, as well as at some other meetings throughout the year. The Board holds a summer recess from mid-July through mid-August.

To learn more, check out our website and review our annual report. Peruse our social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, and PegCentral (look in the ALMU Board Recap and ALMU Board Meetings folders). Feel free to call Todd Danielson at 440-933-6226 with specific questions.