Joe B. Montez, executive director of the Bee Development Authority, said this week that his board voted last year to survey an existing well not far from his office at the Chase Field Industrial and Airport Complex and offer to provide the water from that well for use by the city.
The majority of the bond money, if the sale is approved, would be used to build a $7.4 million reverse osmosis plant at the city’s water storage facility on West Cleveland Street. Then the city would drill a well to a depth of about 1,700 feet into the Jasper water sands.
The water pumped from the sands would need to be pumped through the reverse osmosis plant to remove suspended solids, expected to be 1,500 parts per million, and make the water clean enough to meet Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards.
An engineer who studied the project said the city would be able to produce 2 million to 3.5 million gallons of water a day at a cost of about $0.78 per 1,000 gallons. That would be less then the $0.85 per 1,000 gallons the city now pays the City of Corpus Christi for water taken from the Nueces River near Swinney Switch.
City Manager Deborah told the council that, with administrative costs included, it costs the city $2.35 per 1,000 gallons to provide the water for city residents.
But Montez said the only expense the city would have for reopening the Chase Field well would be to clean out the well casing, replace the PVC tubing and install a new pump and screen.
The BDA would charge only 62 cents per 1,000 gallons. That would help the BDA pay its operating expenses and work toward providing more investment into the community and creating jobs.
Montez said a pipeline has been in place between Chase Field and the city since the early 1990s and it could be used to take the water to the city’s Mussett Street water storage facility.
The pipeline was installed by the city in about 1993 when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was building the two Raul R. “Rudy” Garza units, a regional headquarters, a correctional officer training academy and a trusty camp at what was originally a naval air station.
The line was intended to provide city water to the TDCJ facilities at Chase Field.
However, the state later opted to use wells that already existed on the Chase Field property and the pipeline has gone unused.
Montez said he wrote letters to City Manager Deborah Ballí in October of last year offering use of the well. This week he provided the Bee-Picayune with copies of the letters and with reports on the well survey and tests on the quality of the water.
The well is drilled into the shallower Goliad sands and it either meets or exceeds the quality required by the TCEQ.
A sample of the water, tested last year by Pollution Control Services of Universal City, showed the only problem in meeting TCEQ requirements would be the pH. The state requires a maximim of 7.0 milligrams per liter and the water tested at 8 mgl.
Other perceived contaminants found in the test, including total dissolved solids, sulfate, chloride, nitrate, fluoride, arsenic, copper, iron, aluminum, manganese, zinc and nitrates, were far below minimum TCEQ levels.
“As the drought continues in Beeville and South Texas, the BDA supports the city’s efforts in seeking additional water sources to augment its water supply from Lake Corpus Christi,” Montez wrote to Ballí in a letter dated Oct. 3, 2012.
The letter included information regarding the location and condition of the well.
Montez said the city would have to finance the rehabilitation of the well and provide the pumping equipment. He said the city would manage and maintain the well and would need to build a 250,000-gallon ground storage tank at the location.
Montez then said the BDA would want an interlocal agreement with the city for the operation of the well and would require payment at a rate of 80 percent of the cost of raw water being purchased from the City of Corpus Christi.
Montez said a copy of the city’s budget on his desk indicated that the city has more than $12 million in reserves and that it could have the entire system, possibly including additional wells at the site to enhance the amount of water pumped to the Mussett Street site, for less than $3 million.
The BDA director said several Beeville business investors have expressed an interest in developing that project rather than sell bonds to finance the more expensive reverse osmosis alternative.
If the city does sell the $15.3 million in bonds, the owner of a $75,000 home would see an increase of $17.63 a month in property taxes to repay the debt. That would amount to $211.56 a year.
“I’m interested in the widow living on the west side of Beeville on a fixed income,” Montez said. A tax increase of that magnitude could mean having to give up simple things like cable television.
Montez ran the figures through an amortization program on his computer and said that repaying $15 million in bonds could cost the city almost $25 million over the life of the bonds.
When Ballí’s office was contacted for a response Thursday afternoon, she was either on the telephone or in a meeting.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.