City taking one step at a time
A recent editorial in the McCook Daily Gazette inferred that there are questions about the decisions concerning the selection of a water quality solution. Last fall, Councilman Dick Trail and I put together the proposal utilizing recommendations from engineers, city staff, the water quality advisory committee and others to stay with the current well field and treat the water. That proposal passed by a 5-0 margin.
With the discovery of the diesel plume under the water storage tank, the costs escalated. Secondly, council members identified flaws in the Olsson report that had investigated the north sites. Finally, the advice coming from several communities which have, or are putting in, treatment plants was "make treatment your last resort." The council requested that our local engineers explore two other options that the Olson engineering group did not present for drilling locations. our city engineers drilled and gathered favorable initial information.
I requested a comparative cost analysis that defined the initial drilling costs for a new well field, delivery, operation and maintenance and bond or loan payment. Based upon this cost data, which identified a monthly cost per household at $34.69 for treatment, compared to $19.68 to $24.41 for northern sites, it was my decision, along with council members Reitz, Kenny and Trail, to proceed with the northern site. Other information presented concluded that the deeper shale depth in the northern sites was more attractive for long-term water quality.
The next step in the process was the selection of an engineering firm/firms for this project. Discussion items included division of duties and options for decision-making with two engineers. Councilman Jim Kenny expressed concerns over itemizing costs and our options to discontinue if information on the test wells was not positive. We were advised that there are many phases and decision points where the contract can be discontinued.
I would be the first to vote to discontinue the contract if the data we receive from the test wells does not show viable quantity and quality levels. Drilling the test wells is a vital step in the process. Without this step, we would have no data for future decision-making.
What would be the next step if the data is not encouraging? Probably, the current contract would be discontinued. Part of the south proposal was to drill three new wells for the current water field. One could conclude that we would again be on the "water search" for the replacement wells in the south field and move forward with decisions based on data from the next process.
Other contributing factors for the total solution include recovering costs from Burlington Northern (Santa Fe) for damages in the diesel spill. That is expected to be a lengthy process. The unfunded mandates associated with the arsenic and uranium standards set by the EPA are also being challenged by the Republican Valley Water Quality Coalition. We expect to raise the awareness of the effects of the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1996 at our "Arsenic and Old West" conference on Aug. 20. Even if we are successful in raising the standards, the nitrate administrative order must be met. We do hope, however, to have success in securing additional financial assistance.
Clearly, there are many decisions on the path to a water quality solution. Quality decisions are made utilizing quality data. Collecting that data is the first vital step in this water quality solution. It is one step at a time.