Water drain - stock

Put the tap back on the Cowlitz River, you say? So does Longview’s water committee.

The group guiding a study of ways to address water quality complaints left Tuesday night’s meeting with two options to present to the public: Get water from the Cowlitz River through Ranney wells, or take it from the surface, like in the old days.

The clear front-runner for an eventual recommendation to City Council — which is not bound by any decision the committee makes but perhaps politically motivated to listen — is the Ranney option. Such wells are placed below a river’s surface and are considered a mix of surface and groundwater.

They could cost the average ratepayer between $10 and $24 per month in addition to current utility bills, depending on where the wells are placed and where the water is treated.

Several regional water systems use Ranney wells, including Kelso, which draws from the Cowlitz.

A return to surface water from the Cowlitz, whether at a rebuilt Fisher’s Lane treatment plant or elsewhere, also made the cut for final consideration.

Monthly costs for surface water range from $15 to $47 per month in addition to existing bills.

Twelve other categories were struck from immediate consideration Tuesday, including Mint Farm upgrades, blending surface and well water, finding a new well source or putting Ranney well collectors on the Kalama or Columbia rivers.

The group could choose to revisit those options, however.

Up next for the committee is an open house to show the public the two Cowlitz River options in depth and the process that led to this point.

The more than three-hour meeting Tuesday must have been what the nation’s founders had in mind for democracy. There were gives and takes by a committee of citizens, a raucous audience and literal thumbs-up and thumbs-down votes on the way to consensus.

The night’s process seemed to move quickly, but the group moved very slowly earlier in the year to find what options best address customer perception, feasibility and costs.

While a recommendation for City Council was scheduled for July, the committee will need to use that scheduled meeting to finalize its decision and gather public comments on the two supply categories that remain.

Also at the Tuesday meeting, the committee discussed a new legal opinion that concludes the city is probably not liable for water quality problems.

“Although not absolute, a city is generally not an insurer of the quality of its water and is not going to be liable where it supplies otherwise safe drinking water that has no unhealthful characteristics as determined under the Safe Drinking Water Act criteria,” wrote Jeffrey Myers of the Olympia law firm Law, Lyman, Daniel, Kamerrer & Bogdanovich, P.S.

And the city’s water supply from the Mint Farm has met all state and federal regulations, save for reverse flows causing pipes to dislodge scale after the city switched to the wells in 2013. That caused mineral-heavy and discolored water in some neighborhoods.

As for silica spotting and its damage to appliances and dishes, Myers said at the meeting he has not seen a case in which a city was held liable for silica or other minerals that occur at natural, safe levels, like Longview’s.

Information on the meetings, including detailed summaries, can be found at longviewwater.org.

Contact Daily News reporter Brooks Johnson at 360-577-7828 or bjohnson@tdn.com.

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