816 North

Water company taps into fixes

An ongoing water issue in Platte County may soon be solved. Missouri American Water is installing a carbon dioxide treatment system at the Parkville Water Treatment facility which is expected to take care of a vexing mineral build-up problem customers have been dealing with off and on for the past few years.

At the same time, rate complaints are awaiting a verdict from state regulators and a new treatment plant is in the works.

The water company serves about 6,500 customers in Parkville, City of Lake Waukomis, Riverside and unincorporated Platte County. Customers in several subdivisions, including Thousand Oaks, The National and Montebella, have complained about mineral buildups in their water, which clog and ruin appliances and fixtures.

The company has attacked the problem with several efforts, including changing phosphate vendors, replacing filters at the main plant, varying storage tank fill rates, flushing systems and working on individual fixes at customer homes. Christie Barnhart, external affairs manager at Missouri American Water, explains nothing has worked.

“It’s been very challenging,” Barnhart said. “It’s been very frustrating for our water-quality folks. We’ve had experts from all over the country look at this to help us figure out,” Barnhart said.

The deposits are mostly made up of calcium. While the company has not been able to identify why the problem has happened, they do know what it is.

The deposits are a result of minerals, which naturally build up and coat the water supply lines over time, flaking off and ending up in customers’ homes. The problem has come and gone over the last few years, making identification of the source of the issue even more challenging.

The water company conducted surveys to understand how widespread the problem is. While Barnhart says the issue is affecting a very small percentage of customers, Riverside Mayor Kathy Rose says the quality issues are inexcusable, particularly since the district pays high rates for water. The city of Riverside has taken complaints to the Missouri Public Service Commission as a part of an ongoing rate case.

“If you saw what was in the water, you would not want to be drinking it,” Rose said. “I go back to the cost we pay. If we pay this kind of money, we should have the most pristine water they can produce.”

The City of Riverside is supporting the water company’s request for the Missouri Public Service Commission to consider changing the way the water company determines rates, by consolidating rate districts to spread improvement costs over more customers.

Right now, each district pays for the improvements in their own district. The plan would lower water rates for the district, which has seen rates double in the last 10 years. The commission has rejected this consolidation idea in the past. The last rate case was four years ago. The current rate case is not expected to be resolved until early summer.

The ability to consolidate districts and spread out costs could be particularly important for the Platte County customers because Missouri American Water is set to build a new water treatment plant west of Parkville in the next two years. The $15 to $20 million plant would replace the current 70-year-old plant located in downtown Parkville.

“The age of the facility is an issue. It has just outlived its usefulness,” Barnhart said. “That’s an area that’s growing quite a bit. Quality utilities are important to a growing community.”

Barnhart explains the old equipment at the current facility makes for a lot of “behind the scenes” work to keep the water quality good. The new plant is still in the design phase, but construction could start by fall of 2016. It could be online by 2018.

The carbon dioxide treatment equipment at the current plant is expected to be online by the end of May.

However, customers will not necessarily see immediate results. The fix could take six to eight months to fully resolve. The new equipment will be moved to the new plant when it is completed.