City faces nearly $4 million water improvements to meet EPA demands

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By Becky Barnes

The Cynthiana city Commission could be looking at a nearly $4 million investment in its water treatment facility to bring water quality up to state environmental requirements. That could also mean rate increases for Cynthiana water customers.

The requirements are Stage 2 of the disinfectants and disinfection by-product rule, which is designed to reduce health risks association with HAAs and TTHMs in drinking water. HAAs and TTHMs are by-products of introducing chlorine into natural organic matter in water.

“We’re asking for a form of advanced treatment process,” said Gary Royalty, director of public works/utilities, at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon. 

Todd Blanton, water plant supervisor, noted that the 1965 plant and its method of treating water is limited.

Blanton said new requirements for monitoring will begin in October.

Commissioner Gary Brunker asked how long it was known that the Stage 2 requirements would be taking effect.

Blanton said that for three years officials knew the changes were ahead. However, he and  Royalty noted that they believed that all of the recent upgrades at the plant would handle the new regulations.

“We thought we had an outside chance of meeting the requirements without a capital investment for enhanced treatment,” Royalty said.

However, where past testing was done quarterly and could be an average of the city’s testing sights, new regulations will require a specific week each quarter with each sight standing on its own results.

“The biggest tragedy should the city fail will be the lost of trust with our customers,” Blanton said. “They have put their trust in us and we’ve had no violation in water quality since 2008.”

When questioned by Brunker about the health risks, Blanton explained that the recommended daily water consumption is two liters. It’s estimated that over 75 years, at two liters per day, there is a chance of developing cancer from the disinfectant by-products.

“We’ve done everything we know how to do,” Royalty added, noting that there will also be Stage 3 requirements to follow.

“This is not something you’re facing by yourself,” said Brent Tippy, an engineer with HDR Engineers.

One of HDR’s recommendations would require an estimated $3,956,656 construction of a Granular Activated Carbon and UV facility in the area of the existing water plant.

Tippy told commissioners that EPA’s drive was to ensure equity in the quality of water going to consumers.

He said that if the city plans to move ahead with the proposed construction, it can apply for a two-year extension on new monitoring criteria.

Bob Sturdevant, HDR engineer, explained possible funding opportunities for the city and how that would translate into rate increases for city water customers.

Sturdevant gave three options, the first being a 100 percent loan through KIA for 20 years. That would require a 16 to 17 percent increase in water rates.  To the average customer who pays $16.09 for 4,000 gallons, the 16 percent increase would amount to 66 cents per 1,000 gallons or an additional $2.64.

Another option would be to seek Rural Development funding through a 75 percent RD/25 percent city (through loan) for 38 years. The third option would be the same 25/75 through Rural Development but would be for a 20-year agreement.

Sturdevant noted that the window of opportunity for applying for a KIA grant is within the next month. He explained that even if the city applies, it does not have to accept if it is awarded, but applying gets Cynthiana in line with no obligation.

“We have to come to a decision very quickly,” Royalty said. “Every small town is going to be faced with this same problem.”

 The commission took no action.