Sterling: Public meeting for fall ballot issues includes new water treatment plant

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From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Forrest Hershberger):

The city of Sterling has a question on the ballot that asks voters for permission to go into debt for as much as $29 million. The reason for the question is the city is faced with constructing a new water purification system, or facing the possibility of daily fines and loss of federal funding in the area. The fines and loss of funding would be a result of the city’s water supply system being declared non-compliant by the state health department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“There’s a $2,000 per day fine for non-compliance,” Kiolbasa said. He stressed that this need to build a water treatment plant is not because the city’s water is getting worse, but because allowable standards as determined by the EPA have changed. The chemicals of concern are uranium, a natural erosion byproduct, and trihalomethanes, a result of water purification. Additionally, new health regulations say that any well deemed to be under the influence of surface water must be purified. The health department determined that the city has wells directly under surface water influence.

The unranium drawn from the city water supply will offer a problem of its own. The residue is expected to be concentrated to the point it has to be handled as a hazardous substance. The plan is to dispose of the remaining uranium with deep injection wells. The deep injection wells will be drilled at least 7,000 , well below the average depth for an oil well, Jones said…

Water softness is also a concern that was addressed. The chemical makeup of water is such that requires a proper balance between too soft and too hard. Water that is too soft, 0-2 grains, is considered corrosive and could damage pipes. Kiolbasa said water that is too soft could also be a health issue. The city is focusing on water quality better than what city customers experience now, but harder than the 0-2 soft water range. “We’re talking about a hardness of 7-9 grains. Most people will notice less scaling of the water,” Kiolbasa said. One of the losses in the process, when the new water system is completely online in 2012, is less need for water purification systems.

Many of the residents present in the meeting were concerned about how the increased water rates will affect their home budgets. A flyer distributed to the audience included a chart that shows conventional treatment would increase monthly costs by about $49 per month, and a decrease in cost for the reverse osmosis system of $2 per month if the customer is using an in-home treatment system. Customers who use bottled water, but no in-home treatment system, will see an increase cost under the conventional treatment system of $49 per month, and a $32 decrease under the reverse osmosis proposal. People who chose to use the water as provided, no treatment or bottled water, will experience the largest price increases: $49 per month with conventional treatment and $53 per month for reverse osmosis. The city council is preferring the reverse osmosis process because it has the best chance of staying ahead of changing standards in the future.

More Sterling coverage here and here.

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