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City Water to lake area homes?

Golf course subdivision approaches council for assistance in dealing with arsenic

SOLON– The City of Solon is going to investigate the possibility of becoming a rural water supplier.
Residents of a rural subdivision adjacent to the Lake MacBride Golf Course asked the city to consider extending water service three miles to their 14 homes, and at a July 26 meeting, council members authorized city staff to continue working on the proposal.
Members of the Gallery Acres West Homeowners’ Association were present for the meeting, along with representatives from the Poweshiek Water Association (PWA), a rural water distributor serving 11 counties, in hopes of finding an affordable solution to the problem of arsenic in the Gallery Acres West well.
According to City Administrator Cami Rasmussen, discussions between the homeowners’ association and the city have taken place for over a year and multiple meetings have also taken place with the council’s utilities committee.
Two options were suggested: a 3-inch service line which would serve only the 14 homes, or a 6- to 8-inch main which could provide water to other lake-area subdivisions in the future.
The proposals were reviewed by City Engineer Dave Schechinger, and were deemed unfeasible at the time, but the door was left open, she said.
That led to a more recent meeting, which resulted in the proposal being placed before the council members.
“We’re here tonight to get everybody up to speed on the situation and to gather some direction so that we as staff know where council lies on support of us to keep going as far as research and water service options,” Rasmussen said.
Arsenic is a common problem with water supply systems in the area, Solon Public Works Director Scott Kleppe told council members.
“There’re several public water supplies out there that are dealing with the same thing,” Kleppe said. The city’s third well has also experienced issues with arsenic content, he said, but the city treats its water to remove iron, and arsenic is removed as a result.
“We’re going to hear more about this issue,” Kleppe added, noting at least two rural subdivisions are discharging arsenic from their systems into receiving streams, something the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be reviewing when treatment permits are up for renewal.
Kleppe said a 6-inch main is usually the smallest line the city allows on its system, but even a 3-inch service line to feed 14 homes would likely result in several thousands of gallons lost because of water going stale over the three-mile journey.
“If this continues, we’ll work with Poweshiek rural water on how they handle some of those water issues with their systems,” Kleppe noted.
The cost of extending service to Gallery Acres West has been estimated at $780,000 for a 3-inch line and $981,000 for an 8-inch main, Rasmussen said, but the homeowners’ association has qualified for a 75 percent forgivable loan through the state to deal with the issue.
Gallery Acres West has been given a final compliance date of July 31, 2018, to be arsenic-free or face a potential fine of up to $25,000.

The only other options available to the homeowners’ association would be to drill a new well and hope against running into more arsenic, or to construct a water treatment facility to serve the subdivision’s residents, said association president Mark Steiger.
And while Steiger cautiously noted the group was only representing Gallery Acres West, he indicated other rural subdivisions dealing with arsenic would face the same dilemma.
“It’s a big waste of resources for everybody to put $500,000 into a treatment plant for ‘x’ number of communities out there,” he said.
According to information provided by the association at the meeting, water filtration at each residence would not be an acceptable solution, nor would the dissolution of the association and the drilling of individual wells.
“If we decided to do this, would there be any requirement for us for wastewater discharge?” asked Mayor Steve Stange.
Kleppe responded the city would not be treating any wastewater from the association, but he did note the increase in usage would have an incremental effect on operations.
“We’re going to exercise the wells more to supply the quantity of water,” Kleppe explained. “So, yeah, in a sense we’ll generate more sludge.”
But the actual load placed on the system by 14 homes would not be noticeable, he added.
But, Stange further queried, what if other subdivisions wanted water service?
“I couldn’t answer that,” Kleppe said. “That would require further engineering study.”
Stange continued his line of questioning, asking how the city would determine whether the water in the line had been sitting too long and who would be responsible for bleeding hydrants to maintain the quality of water.
That’s where the PWA might be able to help.
The rural water provider has thousands of miles of pipe and is familiar with transmitting water long distances, said PWA operations manager Matt Tapken.
“It sounds funny, it can be intimidating, but moving water a few miles isn’t that hard,” Tapken said. “I won’t say it can’t get stale, but it’s not that hard to keep it turned over.”
If the city extends a larger line to only a few customers, he said, it could experience some loss, especially if it’s unfamiliar with the process.
The PWA has lines where water might be 25 days old and the quality is still maintained within the system, he said.
“This doesn’t seem that significant to me when I looked at,” he said. “But I’m used to that type of thing.”
Kleppe acknowledged he and city engineer Schechinger had been concerned about that aspect of the proposal.
“We’ve got no experience in any of that,” Kleppe said.
Stange said it would only make sense to provide an 8-inch main to allow for fire service and the possible future connections to other subdivisions.
“It would definitely be a benefit to those developments,” Kleppe responded. “How that all works, I don’t know.”

Nor is there any clear sense of how much it would cost the city, even with Gallery Acres West’s 75 percent forgivable loan.
The utilities committee was on board with bringing the issue to council, but further investigation is needed, Rasmussen said.
The city could look at connection fees and a rate structure to help offset costs for Gallery Acres West, but some city officials expressed a desire to limit the impact on residents within the city limits.
Stange indicated he would be concerned about any impact on bonding capacity, while council member Lynn Morris said there should be no cost to existing citizens.
“Do we have the capacity to do this?” Morris asked.
With the completion of a ground storage reservoir, the city has the ability to serve Gallery Acres West, Kleppe said, but the addition of more homes on the system would change the calculations for long-term needs.
“It’s going to move up our need for another well, it’s going to move up our need for increased storage,” he said.
Up to 280 total homes are located in local lake-area subdivisions experiencing problems with arsenic in the water supply, according to Kelli Scott of Synder & Associates, the engineering firm assisting Gallery Acres West.
But the forgivable loan only applies to the Gallery Acres West issue, she said, and it would be up to the city to determine the specifications for the project and how other subdivisions might be included.
Kleppe suggested he might be able to gather all the interested parties together to discuss a long-term plan for the entire area.
Council members approved a motion to continue investigating the issue on a 3-0 vote.