City Council members on Thursday night soundly voted against spending $350,000 make city tapwater taste better, citing cost and uncertainty.
“I think I’m not sure I want to spend that amount of money until we find out where we’re going, even if that means we wait a while,” Mayor Don Jensen said, referencing the water supply study that may present new options for the city’s water source next summer.
City staff said adding dissolved oxygen to the water at the source would help with the problems that have led to unfavorable colors, tastes and smells — though it might not help the chlorine scent and wouldn’t touch the silica spotting problem.
“Injecting dissolved oxygen, we’ll have better stability and control over our iron and managense issues,” Public Works Director Jeff Cameron said. “Dissolved oxygen helps us all around with water quality.”
The thought of installing the system and then possibly abandoning the Mint Farm Industrial Park wells and treatment plant was too great a risk for Council members. But any switch to a new water system, Cameron said, could take at least three years.
The vote was 5-1 to squash the oxygen proposal. Councilwoman Mary Jane Melink voted for it, while Councilmen Chet Makinster, Ken Botero, Tom Hutchinson, Mike Wallin and Mayor Jensen voted against it. Councilman Steve Moon was absent Thursday night due to illness.
The cost of the project that Council members said could prove futile was another barrier too great.
“What I’m hearing from the public and the ratepayers is, ‘You’re going to spend another $350,000?’” Makinster said. The Council is paying for a $217,000 water study it authorized this summer.
Melink, though, said that the burden on the Baltimore/17th Avenue area has been too great to make them wait for better water. “I think we have an obligation to do what we can,” she said.
The water has always been safe to drink, but when the Mint Farm wells came online in early 2013, city staff found it picked up minerals that had been building up on the inside of pipes for decades. Those minerals turned the water brown and bad-smelling in some areas. Those problems, Cameron has said, have affected the perception of water quality throughout the city.
Adding oxygen would keep minerals from flaking off the inside of pipes and lower levels of manganese and iron in water, according to city studies earlier this year.
“I am sympathetic and I want to do something for (those with unfavorable water), I wish I could feel convinced that by approving this dissolved oxygen that they would thank us for it, I don’t know how else to say that,” Hutchinson said, skeptical that the oxygen wouldn’t do enough. “We’re doing our best to try to improve the quality of the water. I’m torn.”