YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When turning on the spigot, one assumes safe water will come out. That expectation is being met by water companies, big and small, in the Mahoning Valley.
Whether it’s from a well or a municipal treatment plant, getting water that is safe and good-tasting has always been the goal. But buying water by the bottle in a growing option.
“It’s been a trend in the last 10 years, maybe more, of more and more bottled water drinkers and less people drinking from the tap,” says Phil Withers of Mahoning Valley Water. The company employs seven or eight people at its two locations – North Lima and North Jackson.
Having bottled water delivered is one option. But there are several water treatment systems available for those who get it piped in, including softeners, iron filters and reverse osmosis systems.
“Reverse osmosis is for people who are really concerned about things that could be in the water, whether it is chemicals or heavy metals or various impurities in the water,” Withers says. “Then they have concerns about the plastics. So they would rather use reverse osmosis where they can refill their own glasses, refill their own bottles, instead of throwing it away.”
Chris DeSarro, owner of Clearly the Best Bottled Water LLC, has been in business since 1989. Customers can get bottled water delivered or buy it at the company’s drive-thru store in East Liverpool.
The business also delivers 40-pound bags of salt for water softeners and bottled water that comes from an artesian spring in Portage County.
Clearly the Best Bottled Water can provide the cooler for large water bottles or customers are welcome to buy their own.
“People are just more conscientious about what they’re eating and drinking,” DeSarro says. “Today, bottled water seems to be more popular. Its growth in the beverage market is above soft drinks or beer because people are conscientious in what they’re drinking.”
DeSarro points out that it is not that city water is harmful but some of the chemicals and processes used to make the water drinkable affect the taste.
“We fix water,” says Steve Procick, co-owner of Savanna Springs Water Solutions, a family-owned water treatment company in Lowellville.
Procick’s company tests for “hardness” – dissolved solids, irons, manganese, PH levels and hydrogen sulfite. He says his business has both well and municipal water customers, people looking to improve their water.
“Some people have concerns or sensitivities for different things that may or may not be in the water,” Procick says, “and they just want to use it as an insurance policy just in case.”
Procick can test the water at a customer’s house to demonstrate the improved results.
“Now look, the water is clear. Or, how much better it smells. The odor is gone. It tastes better,” Procick says. “It’s instantaneous.”
Making sure customers and employees are happy is a big part of Travis Mong’s business, Quality Water Systems of Salem, which has been in business since 1975.
Quality Water Systems drills wells, and sells and services water filtration systems and well pumps in the two-hour driving radius surrounding Salem. The company has been expanding and recently purchased R&S Drilling in Lisbon and Templeton Well Drilling in Ravenna.
Mong, a second-generation owner, worked as a service agent himself and knows the importance of providing quality services. His company offers 24-hour customer service and a maintenance membership program, in which a service crew will visit a customer once a year to flush water heaters, check air pressure or chlorinate the well.
“We try to take that worry and concern out,” Mong says. “We try to take care of those customers. We’ve got a ton of people on our membership, just because it is peace of mind. I know people are busy. They don’t think about it.”
Mong believes part of operating a good water business is investing in the 16 people who work for him – including four hours of training each week.
LEAD AND OTHER CONCERNS
At the end of November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to accelerate the replacement of all lead service lines within 10 years.
Jennifer Johnson, area manager for the Struthers division at Aqua Ohio, says her company tests daily for lead to make certain the water system remains 100% in compliance with federal and state regulations.
Jeff LaRue, community relations manager, says Aqua Ohio has done work to identify where there may be lead pipes.
Overall, Aqua Ohio emphasizes a proactive approach to maintaining the system – finding flaws and making repairs before multiple breaks occur, they say. The company evaluates the system every four or five years, then meets with the community to explain its proposed capital investment plan and the corresponding rates.
Johnson says Aqua Ohio has committed to spending $27 million on upgrades to the system from 2022 to 2025. These include water main replacements, upgrades to the treatment plant and pump stations, water storage tower painting and upgrades to its dam and reservoir.
“If we do everything right, people forget about us,” LaRue says. “Our infrastructure is underground and they don’t really think about us until they turn the tap and the water’s not there. We do what we can to stay invisible.”
Aqua Ohio serves Struthers, Lowellville, Poland and New Middletown. It recently added Campbell. In addition, Aqua Ohio serves portions of Beaver, Boardman, Canfield, Coitsville, Poland and Springfield townships.
Providing 1.7 billion gallons of treated water each year, the company operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with 24 employees, which Johnson considers a mark of efficiency.
“Our team has a 115-year local legacy of providing safe, reliable service at a reasonable price,” says Robert Davis, president of Aqua Ohio. “We have unmatched water quality expertise and invest in our treatment and distribution system at a higher rate per customer than others. In fact, we’re averaging approximately $7 million a year in infrastructure to assure reliable service to our 23,000 local customers.”
Pictured at top: Travis Mong says his business recently expanded by purchasing two companies.