Letters to the Pilot

Monday, October 21, 2002

'Yes' to water plant issue


I would like to take a few minutes to tell you my reasoning for voting YES to the Water Plant Renovation Project at (a recent) council meeting. This issue is an important one that involves the entire community, residents, businesses and industry alike. No doubt about it, we all need water.

In July of this year we experienced a major breakdown in our current water treatment facility in the loss of two filters. These filters failed due to age. Similar systems in the Water Treatment Plant are aged and without proper replacement could result in similar water emergencies or worse case scenarios. For example, the solids contact basin at the water plant is a critical system and without this system in place the water plant would not be able to produce any water. Should a failure of this equipment occur, even with replacement parts on hand, it would take repairs crews days to repair the system, days where we would not be able to produce water for residential, commercial or industrial customers. The renovations that we are about to vote on will put in place a redundancy in all the major areas of the water plant to allow for continued operation of the plant should we experience a failure in the future. I feel that this redundancy at our water treatment plant is important to our community.

In June 2001 the City of Storm Lake experienced high levels of nitrites in the system. While the City continues to monitor this situation on a weekly basis the renovation project at the water plant includes disinfections improvements including a MIOX system to solve the nitrite problem. I feel that we need to be able to ensure that we are doing everything we can to maintain a high quality product for our citizens.

The renovation project also includes the replacement of outdated systems and equipment in the water plant. These updates need to be completed to ensure that should a failure occur replacement parts could be obtained and to continue the safe and efficient operations of the plant on a daily basis. One of these systems is the SCADA system. This system is the computer that monitors all the flows, pumps, filters, basins, chemicals and towers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

My final reason for voting yes to the Water Plant Renovation Project has to do with financing. There is no question that our water plant needs renovation to allow the City of Storm Lake to continue to move forward now and in the future. The needs are now and with current financing levels at a 40-year low (it is anticipated that debt will be issued at 3-4 percent) NOW is the time to move forward with the renovations, before we are forced into the renovations when the market may be 6-7 percent interest. While I agree that industry needs to pay its fair share, the costs of delaying the project, both in increased interest costs and the costs of a major water emergency, make this the time to move forward. For these reasons I will be proposing an additional rate increase to our major industrial users to help cover their share of the costs of this renovation project.

The current water treatment plant was built in 1978, since that time we have grown as a community to include new commercial businesses, new housing subdivisions and new industrial development. These areas of growth have required water and as the city continues to grow, new housing divisions, commercial enterprises and new industrial growth will continue to require water both in large and small quantities. This plant renovation provides redundancies and upgrades to ensure our current users that they will continue to be provided with the quality of water they need and the quantity of water that will allow the City of Storm Lake to grow.

Wally Burns,

City Council Member