Sites questioned

Thursday, August 1, 2002

Dear Editor:

At the Water Advisory meeting of July 23, Olsson Associates showed the committee six or seven well field sites. They would like to short list three to test drill.

I am a committee member, but I didn't see any site listed that I would have spent my own personal money on, if I was the one trying to get a well field. I did not vote for any site, as I did not feel any of the presented sites could be developed into a well field, due to lack of enough water or being next to a very old oil well field, or in an area that is way over-developed for irrigation and already has excessive declines in water in the summer. There were others that did not vote for some of the same reasons.

I feel they should have checked out what the wells at these sites, which are now pumping in the areas they recommended, since they are now being pumped for irrigation. Also, they should have personally looked at all of their recommended sites and they would have seen some of the areas are over developed. They had no knowledge of the old oil field at one or more of the sites. Why spend all of this money if it is fruitless to begin with?

Olsson Associates has already given the city their proposal of cost for a treatment plant. It almost looks like the way to promote a very expensive treatment plant, with the initial construction cost starting around eight million dollars, and very expensive yearly operational cost there after and the need to refurbish every twenty years or so, is to NOT find a suitable well field or make the well field cost so high the treatment plant is cheaper.

There are two other potential sites out there.

The first is the site that W Design offered to finish the testing on. This is a site the city had considered in 2000 and at the time, spent money having estimates done, preliminary agreements made and having part of the water testing done. The tests that were done showed excellent water quality. There are only three irrigation wells located in an area of 2,300 acres with capabilities of 1,800 gallons per minute per well. At that time the landowners were agreeing to quit irrigating in the area and follow the rules for a well head protection area.

This is a site that is 12 to 15 miles north-northeast and has an engineering estimate of less than ten million dollars for the completed project.

When the city asked for bids to find a well field, Olsson's bid was in the $65,000 area. W Design was around $10,000 to finish checking out the above mentioned site. Incidentally, after you add the Olsson bid and the city water testing cost and the test well drilling it comes to approximately. $125,000.

The second site is in the southeast corner of Hayes County. There appears to be ample water and the area north and west of there is all grass. That means no competition for the water or no contamination now or in the future.

One of these sites could supply McCook for hundreds of years. The Hayes County site is the one I initially wanted the council to look at when I wrote my open forum letter against the purchase of the airbase in August of 1999, prior to the council buying it. I believe that there will need to be a rural water district in the future. There are rural homes where the wells are presently going dry or have high contaminations.

Indianola has a shortage of water. There is grant funding for rural water systems. If people would work together, I don't feel the cost would be nearly as costly as treatment in the near future and way cheaper in future years.

Lets look at least at good potential well sites to make an honest determination. My opinion of the Water Advisory Committee is this -- Olsson advised the committee of what they were going to do and not the committee advising them. I told them of the W Design site early on and they didn't even check it out.

At this point, Olsson gets no more money or no less to do an exceptional job or just point to a site. In talking to people from Olsson's at the meeting, they had evidently not physically been to these sites or done flow checks on the wells within these sites. They are now just planning to punch holes at the three sites at the city's expense and they will have done their job.

They get the same money if it's a good site or a bad site but it was the site the advisory committee selected.

Remember they would also want to design, build and develop it for you and get a percentage of the cost for doing it.

You need to remember Olsson is biased, the same as any other firm would be. In fact they will want to do the well field or the treatment plant rather than let some other company do it. That is where the money is. Some how the city needs to figure out how to get bids for projects of this type, not on what the engineers firms think they should be, but on competitive bids for the design based on what city feels their needs are.

The city, along with with their own city employed engineer, should

determine what they want done and how, then let bids for only that. My point is you cannot afford having some firm determining everything of what you need. It can be distorted in many ways. McCook needs their own engineer, who's only job is to work for the city, getting only a salary from the city, who determines what the city needs and then draw up specifications to bid that project. This is not saying the city engineer could not consult with different engineering firms, but the results should be unbiased. The city engineer would make no more or less for the job he is doing, and if he does not do a good job, replace the city engineer. They will want to get the job done since they don't make extra money by dragging it out or over building the project. This bias and cost goes far beyond just the water project in this city. I know a good city engineer would save McCook a tremendous amount of money. Without bringing up personal experiences, below are a few examples I have seen about the water project.

I have seen the cost estimated for the pipe to bring in the water almost double from one firm to another. One firm says to buy the land, another says lease the water rights and only own a small area where the well sits. There are some towns with treatment plants that cost considerably less than the proposed one for McCook. The list goes on and on.

Finally, since 1988 McCook has probably spent more for water studies, land and what little that was done for well development, than it would have cost to totally do W Design's proposed well field, and have the water into McCook water towers, and we still don't have anything except an old air base and less than 1000 gallons per minute of additional water.

Claude L. Cappel


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