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Citizens Committee: Water rates will rise
by Gary Kent
Jul 08, 2013 | 1416 views | 1 1 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE — A motion to limit the study of groundwater quality to wells drilled inside the city failed Monday evening when a dozen members of the City Council’s Citizens Committee voted to look into water alternatives for Beeville.

The motion was made toward the end of the meeting by committee member Garry Cude and seconded by member Teresa Holland.

But committee member Jessy T. Garza spoke up immediately.

“I don’t like shutting out data,” Garza said.

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Cude answered. “I just want to know if water under the city is usable.”

Garza was joined in his opposition to the motion by Committee Chairman John Galloway. Both objected to limiting the study in any way.

“Let’s do it all,” Garza said.

When Galloway called for a vote on the motion, Cude and Holland were joined in voting for it by Kenneth Elsbury, Carlos Perez and Jim Crumrine.

In addition to Galloway and Garza, others voting to include information on out-of-town wells were Orlando Vasquez, Tonja Rice, Roy Galvan, Kathlyn Patton and Adan Perez.

Board member Tom Healey was at the meeting but did not vote.

Earlier in the meeting, Galloway mentioned a report he had obtained that compared the cost of buying water from the Bee Development Authority’s well at the Chase Field Industrial and Airport Complex to using wells drilled in the city and filtered through a reverse osmosis plant.

The Chase Field option was identified as the Highway 202 project.

According to the figures, the RO plant option would cost the city $12.7 million, and the 202 option would cost $12.3 million.

Galloway said the total estimated monthly cost of treating 1,000 gallons of water from the Chase Field Industrial and Airport Complex would come to a maximum of $57.68 for the utility customer.

That compared to a maximum of $84.15 for 1,000 gallons if the city takes the RO option.

The difference was in a projected cost ranging from $0.75 to $1.50 in operation and maintenance expenses to provide water from the Chase Field well. Engineers have said that water from the Chase Field well is actually lower in suspended solids and chlorides than the water now being pumped to the city from Swinney Switch.

Experts with HDR Engineering have said the well water probably would not require filtering.

The study showed that the O&M cost for filtering water through an RO plant would run from a low of $3 per 1,000 to a high of $3.75.

Healey argued that an article he had read put the O&M cost of running an RO plant at more like $0.86 per 1,000 gallons.

That cost, he said, would be reduced by increasing the output of the RO plant, and it could be as low as $0.79 per 1,000 gallons.

“Improved technology has brought down the cost,” Healey told fellow committee members. “We’re sitting on the highest volume of brackish water than any place in Texas,” Healey said.

Galloway questioned Healey’s figures, saying he would rather believe the information provided by someone who actually runs an RO plant.

Garza asked if the city had any estimates of what it would cost to operate and maintain an RO plant, and City Manager Deborah Ballí said she expected it would run in the neighborhood of $0.75-$0.80 per 1,000 gallons.

“There could be some hidden costs in there, and we need to get more information,” Ballí said.

Garza said the city needs to get the experts who can answer those questions to meet with the committee.

Committee members were told that the city of Kenedy operates an RO plant and that the city manager, former Beeville City Manager Ford Patton, was sitting in the audience.

Patton said Kenedy runs between 1.5 and 2 million gallons of water a day through the RO plant and that city is planning to expand the facility.

When committee member Roy Galvan asked Patton how much it costs to operate and maintain the plant, the city manager said the cost is worked into the rate that residents pay.

He said he would provide Ballí with that information later.

Holland then told committee members that the well at Chase Field could go dry next year.

“If we use our own wells, we won’t have to pay for water,” she said.

Committee members discussed the potential costs of trucking in water in the event that Lake Corpus Christi runs dry before Beeville has developed any wells.

Galloway reminded city staff members that no matter what the city ultimately decides to do, water rates will increase.

He then suggested that the impact on water rates could be softened by adjusting property taxes.

Healey reminded committee members that depending on wells along the Highway 202 corridor is not a dependable source.

“We only know one person out there who’s willing to sell water and that’s the BDA,” Healey said.

“There may be some ranchers out there who are willing to sell water, but nobody’s asked them,” Healey added. He said no one from the city has any idea how much ranchers will want for their well water or even if they are willing to sell it.

“If the only source of water we have is Chase Field, I think we’re going to come up short,” Healey said.

Galloway did not agree.

Elsbury suggested that the committee wait until the city has the results of a test well being drilled at Veterans Memorial Park.

Ballí said the city will have to expand what is being required of the water quality tests. She said the well is to be used to irrigate athletic fields in the park, and that does not have to be the same quality as drinking water. She said the same request will have to be made of a test well to be drilled on the east side of the city as well.

Ballí hopes to have some information on the Veterans Park well by the time the City Council meets on July 9.

Crumrine said the potential volume of water will be the most important question to answer with the Veterans Park test well.

“If we’ve got the volume, we can fix the chemistry,” Crumrine commented.

When one committee member asked about potential iron and manganese levels in the test well, Crumrine said “we can fix that with chelation.”

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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lindaunger
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July 08, 2013
Blueberry Hill Water Works has 4 water wells. It seems odd that the city doesn't recognize this additional source of water for blending or emergency planning. It's been pointed out to the council members on numerous occasions.