SL declares a water emergency

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

One more break-down could stop meatpackers cold

Storm Lake is in a water emergency following the breakdown of a filter at the water treatment plant last Friday. Operating with only three of the plant's four filters could cause additional stress on an already over-taxed treatment facility.

City officials warned that if another filter breaks down, it could cause drastic water conservation measures that could essentially shut down the city's two meatpacking plants.

The city council voted yesterday to declare an emergency, allowing them to bypass normal bid procedures for the $110,000 replacement costs of the broken filter, as well as to purchase necessary supplies for two other filters in need of replacement at the water treatment plant.

City Administrator John Call attempted to contact managers at both Bil Mar and IBP about the threat to industry operation if there are any more problems at the plant. "I wanted to make them aware we're in a bad situation," he said.

City Engineer Jim Winterton said he expects it to be three to four weeks at the earliest for supplies to arrive and for crews to repair the broken filter.

The council approved tougher mandatory water conservation measures for residences and businesses, limiting lawn watering to weekends only.

"If we feel that's not working, we'll have to recommend other conservation measures to the council," said Mayor Jon Kruse.

The city just implemented mandatory water conservation measures last week, following a week of voluntary conservation effort attempts before that.

The broken filter hits the city right at the period of highest water usage, said Call. "This is serious enough of an occurrence that the council needs to be fully briefed," he said at the start of a special meeting Monday.

The new mandatory efforts include limiting lawn watering for residences and businesses only on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and residential car washing only on the weekends.

Exceptions would be made for new seedlings or sod, and watering with a watering can would be acceptable.

The municipal golf course will be allowed to water greens during the week, since replacement costs range between $10,000 and $20,000. The fairways will be under the same constraints as residential and business lawns.

Violation of the mandatory water conservation measures could be considered a municipal infraction, with fines up to $ 200 per violation.

The water plant has been peaking over 4 million gallons per day, but on the weekends, usage drops to only about 1.7 million gallons.

Winterton said if the city is able to get two good filters up and running at the plant, it could be possible to push 4 million gallons through the plant per day. Trying that with the current filters though would be risking the failure of another at this point, he said, with drastic consequences for city industry.

If another filter failed, max production would drop to 2.5 million gallons per day.

Dale Conklin, manager for US Filter which operates the plant, said the facility is pretty much at its limit - even before the filter went down.

"What we produce in a day we use in a day," he said.

However, even at that level of consumption, he said fire protection has never been lost.

There was some frustration over a water plant expansion project in the works for 18 months. The addition of two new filters would have boosted the plant's capacity by at least 2 million gallons of water per day.

That project fell through after the city failed to enter into an agreement with the city's two meatpackers to pay for a portion of the new water facility.

Call said the city does have cash on hand in its water fund to cover the necessary repairs and to get the required items in to update the other two filters in the plant.

The council also passed an ordinance to give "more teeth" to the city's ability to enforce the mandatory water conservation measures, according to Paul Havens, city attorney.

"We have to have the right basis for establishing conser-vation measures," he said.

The existing ordinance covered measures in case of a drought that would have dried up city well supplies. The new ordinance includes language covering problems with the actual treatment system, Havens said.

Violation of the mandatory conservation measures within the city limits of Storm Lake is punishable by a $200 fine. Outside the city limits, the city has contractual rights to shut off or reduce water for non-compliance, Havens said. That would include users in Lakeside, Lake Creek, Truesdale, Casino Beach, Stoney Point, South Shore and Bel Air.

"We need everybody's cooperation to make the best of this until we get repairs done and the filter back online," Mayor Kruse said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: