The effort to return to the Cowlitz River for Longview’s drinking water supply is dead.
Longview council members and Beacon Hill Water and Sewer District commissioners unanimously agreed Thursday to halt testing for a Ranney collector well system.
The vote follows months of discouraging water quality testing of potential Cowlitz River Ranney locations. Silica and iron concentrations were far higher than at the Mint Farm artesian well system.
Longview and Beacon Hill officials said they want to pursue a staff-recommended plan to improve the taste and odor problems with water from the Mint Farm well system.
Councilman Steve Moon was absent.
Project engineer Amy Blain said adding dissolved oxygen — at a cost of 70 cents a month for water customers, and $2 million for the city — would improve the water’s taste and odor and ease the perception of contamination.
Council members and commissioners said they want to continue to explore treatment options for the silica, though those options would be more costly. The direction to staff would need to be approved at a future council meeting, potentially Aug. 25.
“It doesn’t mean we shut the door on other options,” said Monte Roden, Beacon Hill Water and Sewer District commissioner, about the dissolved oxygen treatment. “I do believe that we owe it to our customers to move ahead with the D.O. I believe that we don’t shut the door on silica, but I think we move ahead tonight on remedying some of the odor and taste (troubles).”
The Mint Farm is partly owned by the Beacon Hill Sewer and water district, which serves water to the Lexington and Beacon Hill areas north of Longview.
The city has been testing potential Ranney locations on the recommendation of a citizens committee. The city formed the committee after myriad complaints arose about the smell, odor, taste and appearance of city water after the city started drawing water from the Mint Farm wells in January 2013.
Complaints have abated in recent years as the city has taken a variety of steps to improve water and flush and replace water mains. But silica – a harmless mineral that causes white spotting on dishes and appliances — remains a problem.
Ranney systems draw water from pipes driven horizontally under the river bed. Kelso has used such a system for about 35 years.
The cost for a new Ranney collector well system increased to $55 million because of the poor water quality results at potential intake locations at Rocky Point and Riverside Park.
The city has already spent $235,000 testing Ranney locations and would have to spend at least an additional $435,000 on tests, public works officials said.
Public Works Director Jeff Cameron said the Rocky Point site was not the “silver bullet” people were hoping it to be.
“That money would be better spent in installing a treatment process at the Mint Farm,” he said.
“I think we’re through with the Ranney system,” Councilman Ken Botero said. “Let’s fix the problem at the Mint Farm. Get it over with.”
The city has already completed installing a $190,000 post-chlorination system at the Mint Farm in June that regulates the chlorine in the water. Treatments for removing silica would be pricier for water customers, adding at least an additional $16 a month on utility bills, according to staff estimates.