NASA is helping Erie County plan ahead.
The space agency has agreed to set aside hundreds of acres on the west side of its Plum Brook property to give Erie County a place to build a water filtration plant when it needs one, said Joe Morris, chief architect for NASA Glenn Research Center, Plum Brook’s parent facility.
The provision allowing Erie County to lease the land when necessary is included in a new master plan for Plum Brook Research Station unveiled by NASA in August.
Erie County’s water and sewer department buys most of its water from Sandusky under a regional water agreement and then resells it to various customers, including Perkins Township residents and Northern Ohio Rural Water.
Although Erie County is pleased with that arrangement, officials believe that, years down the road, an additional water plant will be needed for the county, said Jack Meyers, sanitary engineer for Erie County’s Department of Environmental Services.
“Sandusky will hit their limit some day,” Meyers said.
The need for a new water plant could arise 15 to 30 years from now, Meyers added.
A 34-inch pipe connects Lake Erie to Plum Brook Station, providing raw water for the NASA facility. In the past, it was used to provide water to cool a nuclear reactor, Meyers said.
The land that’s the possible site for a water plant is in an area of hundreds of acres on the west side of the property, an area that serves to buffer Plum Brook’s testing facilities. The water plant site is east of Campbell Street, Morris said.
NASA has not specified exactly how large the piece of land would be, Morris said.
“It really would depend upon the size that the county needed,” Morris said.
NASA’s plans call for leasing the land for the water plant site and also leasing the intake station on Lake Erie and the five-mile underground line that would bring in the water, Morris said, at a “fair market value.”
NASA is flexible on the lease terms. It could, for example, accept free water from the county, Morris said.
He said the offer to lease the land to the county will be open for at least 20 years, and said NASA contemplates the lease itself would be for at least 40 years.
Erie County also has been paying for an option to buy 141 acres of land west of Plum Brook from the Schenk family as a possible water plant site. On Nov. 15, commissioners extended the agreement for another six months after Dec. 1, agreeing to pay $1,000 a month for six months.