Marion commissioners to go ahead with plant upgrades

The Marion City Commission Monday authorized the Salina engineering firm of Bucher, Willis & Ratliff Corp. to move ahead with proposal plans for a water plant upgrade that might keep the city on track to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations administered under the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

In making the motion to proceed, Commissioner Larry McLain acknowledged that the City of Hillsboro has said that it needs until February to give guarantees of water prices if it provides for Marion, too.

“We just can’t wait,” McLain said, adding that there is no certainty in the moves Marion is making to try to satisfy KDHE without knowing what either ultimate prices might be with Hillsboro or with upgrades of its own facility.

Mayor Martin Tice joined McLain in voting to move ahead while also telling engineers he wanted them to proceed in such a way that this would be “Phase 1” with “Phase 2” to follow in procedures that might secure community block development grants to help.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot was absent.

The commissioners said the plan they expected to follow, in agreement with the engineers, is laid out by the Rural Water Development Association of which they are members.

City Administrator David Mayfield said Rural Development, which could make up to a $1.6 million loan for water plant upgrades plus provide grant money, may limit funding required to run a line to Nighthawk Road to receive Hillsboro water if that is the lesser amount required to insure public well-being.

Scott Wetzel and Chad Larson, BWR engineers, outlined upgrade choices commissioners will need to make, including processes such as ozone water treatment, using ultraviolet light and replacing the standard chlorine gas treatment that has been used with combined chloramines.

Wetzel said although the traditional chlorine treatment used has been effective in killing bacteria and viruses, the process leaves behind by-products that have been shown to be potentially carcinogenic.

The chloramine process, he said, obtained by introducing ammonia with the chlorine, eliminates by-products proven to cause problems, but also introduces new by-products that might be shown to cause problems later.

Wetzel said the ozone process, an expensive process depending on such variations as whether ozone is drawn from the air or from a shipped-in bottled product, eliminates most by-products.

Ozone also neutralizes blue-green algae toxins, eliminates taste and odor problems, improves the kill of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and cysts, and oxidizes iron, manganese and sulfur compounds from the water.

For more expense, although but less than for the ozone, he said, ultraviolet light can be added-with the advantage of no chemical addition or by-products-to remove ozone by-products and other chemicals while further neutralizing blue-green algae toxins.

The ozone and other treatments addressed, Wetzel said, are for cities using ground water, such as from reservoirs and creeks.

The ozone treatment seems to be a coming thing he said, adding that while only one Kansas city had it five years ago, other cities are adding it or considering it on a regular basis.

He said it continues to be a problem for small towns like Marion whether to go only with what KDHE requires at this time, or to anticipate in planning improvements, such as ozone, that could be required in the future.

Wetzel said the ozone treatment is nearly universal in Europe, but Europe doesn’t require a residual disinfectant in water like most of the United States does, which leads to chlorine use as the residual here.

He said systems also have to be individualized by location because factors such as fertilizer and organic materials run-off with water increase in heavily cultivated areas compared to grassy areas, and residuals and treatment also vary according to weather.

A pilot project, something like building the Marion plant in miniature, might be required to test the working plan, he said.

Wetzel estimated that with preliminary “bench work,” and such things as KDHE approval, actual construction bids for work on the Marion plant could be eight months off.

Other choices for Marion
would be to build a new water plant, or to build a new water plant in a joint water district with Hillsboro, both of which they were considering, are their most expensive options.

The commissioners also approved the October investment and collateral report, the October financial statement, and paying warrants for $19,478.07.

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