Public Facilities and Utilities
Yellow Springs has a history of long-term public utility and infrastructure planning. Over the past 30 years, the community has consistently opted to be self-reliant and retain public ownership of the water, sewer and electric utilities. Environmental and economic sustainability of the utility systems are often key considerations when determining future public utility and infrastructure investments.
Yellow Springs has owned, operated and maintained its own electric distribution system for many years. The enterprise utility supports its own maintenance and capital improvement investments. Yellow Springs has a commitment to environmental stewardship both in its land development policies and its public utility investments. Yellow Springs has one of the largest solar utilization rates for a municipality of its size. The Village continues to push forward the issues of environment, equity and equality. To that end, Yellow Springs should continue to invest in its solar infrastructure.
Public surveys and focus group interviews revealed resident and business owners concerns about adequate electrical capacity and reliability. They cited frequent power outages as the key concern. In early 2020, the Village commissioned an updated study of the electrical system, examining issues such as reliability, capacity and future upgrades. The results of this study are expected to detail recommended long-term improvements and associated costs.
In the meantime, future commercial, industrial and residential new construction should be evaluated based on anticipated electrical demand so that new developments do not negatively impact the existing network and customer base.
As with many midwest communities, the Village's sanitary sewer system is old. The original system dates back to the 1930's and was associated with Antioch College. The remainder of the Village sanitary system was built out beginning in the 1940's through the 1990's. Over the years, there have been incremental upgrades to the system, including a major upgrade to the the Wastewater Treatment Plant, increasing its capacity to treat 1.2 Million Gallons Per Day (GPD). Currently, about 650,000 GPD is treated. This 550,000 gallon “surplus” should be adequate to accommodate modest growth.
Fortunately, the Village does not have a combined sanitary and storm system; they are separate infrastructure systems. However, the Village is dealing with the effects of aging infrastructure, particularly storm water infiltration, into the sanitary sewer system. Water infiltration during significant rain events causes a spike in the amount of water sent to the wastewater treatment plant, occasionally exceeding its processing capacity. In wetter months, the plant treats approximately 880,000 GPD, compared to 300,000 GPD during dryer summer months.
In 2012, the Village undertook an Asset Management and Capacity, Management, Operations and Maintenance (CMOM) planning process. The goal of the plan was to achieve regulatory compliance by reducing and eventually eliminating Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) events. Prior to undertaking the study, Yellow Springs had 13 wet weather SSO events over the previous five-year period.
This plan outlined a series of recommended strategies to reduce and eliminate SSO events and increase the ability of the Village to undertake preventative maintenance activities, rather than reactionary repairs. The strategies to eliminate SSO events included: replacing manhole covers, relining or replacing older sewer pipes, raising sunken manholes and eliminating residential and commercial sump pump connections to the sanitary system.
The Village continues to remediate these issues and implement the CMOM plan. The Village has been encouraging sump pump disconnections. Recently, it began a sewer lining program focusing on the downtown area, which has the oldest infrastructure. Since completing the study and initiating improvements, the number of SSO events has declined. In 2015, there were three events that led to effluent discharge into Yellow Springs Creek; none in 2016; and two each in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The Village should continue to implement the CMOM plan. These improvements will mitigate infiltration issues and eliminate or greatly reduce surges at the wastewater treatment plan during periods of heavy rainfall. This is an important project since climate change is expected to result in stronger, more frequent storm events.
Additionally, the Village should continue to encourage downspouts and sump pump disconnections from the sanitary sewer system. While this was a common practice, changes to environmental regulations and an increased demand on the waste water treatment system means these connections should not be allowed to directly impact the effluent discharge occurring during heavy rain events.
Storm Water System
During the public engagement process, a few residents expressed concerns about flooding during rain events. As described above, the Village does not have a combined sanitary and storm sewer system. The storm water system is a complex network of ditches, swales, catch basins and pipes that empty into swales, directing the runoff to the Little Miami River or Yellow Springs Creek.
In early 2020, the Village undertook a storm water study to examine the system and determine a course of action to reduce flooding. This study identified 16 storm runoff watersheds within the Village and subsequent needed improvements within each area. The recommendations ranged from simply cleaning out ditches and swales to replacing undersized piping where continual flooding events occur. Additionally, the study recommended amending the storm water regulations, and requiring new developments to retain more water on-site during storm events, thus reducing stormwater runoff in 2016. This is a more cost effective approach, rather than upgrading all undersized piping within the Village.
Water Treatment Plant
In 2011, discussions began on addressing concerns about the aging water plant. Yellow Springs built the existing water treatment plant located off Jacoby Road in 2016. Four production wells are also located in that same area. The 1.0 MGD treatment plant is designed for iron and manganese removal, softening, and for disinfection.
Yellow Springs has two standpipe style water towers located at Gaunt Park on West South College Street. Together these towers are rated at 2.0 million gallons, or about four days of supply at the average daily design flow of 0.5 million gallons a day.
The need and desire to improve the broadband infrastructure within the Village was a common theme and a high priority among all stakeholders. Unlike the water or electric systems, the Village does not have its own telecommunications utility. The need for all residents to access affordable high-speed broadband has become more important during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shift of working and educating at home.
As the economy continues to evolve to more decentralized work spaces and a higher reliance on data throughput, the need to have a robust telecommunications infrastructure increases. This need for reliable high speed internet access is not simply for entertainment and educational purposes, but is necessary for communities to compete economically.
Unfortunately, there may be little incentive for the large telecommunication utilities to upgrade their existing networks to provide reliable, high speed broadband due to the relatively low number of household customers within the Village. Therefore, the Village must study the ability and cost effectiveness of providing broadband access to its residents. Based on stakeholder feedback, this is a significant issue and a high priority for residents and business owners alike.