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Purdy city officials lay out need for sewer system improvments

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The latest word from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on the plan proposed to fix problems with the city's sewer system were shared by engineer Glen Davidson with Allgeier, Martin and Associates engineering firm, at Monday's public hearing on the $2.5 million bond issue going to voters on June 8. Shown from left are Alderman Ken Real, Davidson, Mayor Ron Dutra, and Aldermen Steve Roden and Wayne Rupp. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]]
Purdy residents learned the city's wastewater system is in trouble at a public meeting on Monday. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has changed standards the city has to meet, and as a result, city officials are seeking a $2.5 million bond issue to fix the ailing system.

A dozen people attended the public hearing at the Purdy Community Center to hear more about the proposed bond issue that will be decided by voters on June 8.

Problems with Purdy's sewer system come from several sources. Glen Davidson and Brandon Freeman, with the engineering firm of Allgeier, Martin and Associates, detailed the troubles.

In June 2008, DNR first wrote to the city that the west lagoon was leaking. Allgeier, Martin has devised a plan to clean up and expand the lagoon, install a liner and upgrade the capacity of pumps that will transfer effluent from the west lagoon to the east lagoon for treatment.

Fixing the west lagoon was estimated to cost $60,000. Davidson said the increased pump capacity would enable the lagoon to be pumped dry when not in use, which cannot be done now, and would handle storm water inflow that periodically overflows the lagoon presently.

More work will be required to fix conditions at the east lagoon. According to Freeman, effluent pumped out of the east lagoon for land application has not met DNR standards for biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids for some time. One test well in the irrigation field has consistently measured far higher than acceptable standards for nitrates.

In addition, DNR issued the city a new permit in June 2009 for its wastewater operation. Standards for water quality changed from what the operation was expected to do when it was built in 1990. Under the old standard, Davidson said, when stormwater filled the lagoon to peak levels, the city was allowed to drain overflow into a dry adjacent creek that runs into Little Flat Creek.

Under the new standard, city discharge must meet the higher standards established for water quality for losing streams.

DNR has also decreased the volume of water that could be irrigated from the lagoon. A 20 percent reduction in the volume of water leaving the lagoon meant either making the lagoon bigger to hold the effluent longer or finding more places to irrigate at a slower rate.

"Typically we would design a bigger lagoon [to deal with Purdy's current problem]," Davidson said. "DNR still classifies the east lagoon as having a severe collapse potential. We cannot expand it. So we had to find more land [to irrigate]."

Three landowners to the southeast were found to have suitably flat land that could be used as an irrigation field. Only two of the property owners are needed to add 80 acres to the irrigation area, expanding from the current 55-acre potential. The property owners are willing to sign 30-year lease deals in return for the steady supply of water. Use of the land would be limited to pasture or field crops and restricted from use on crops for human consumption.

Getting effluent from the east lagoon to the new irrigation fields will require laying more than two miles of 10- to 14-inch pipes. Extending the pipeline alone was estimated to cost $650,000.

"It's safe to say it would take most of $2.5 million to address what we've got now," Davidson said.

Purdy's current system was designed to last for 20 years. The new proposal would cover the next 20 years and a potential population of 1,780 people, about 500 more than are expected to be counted in the current census.

Pump stations, expensive irrigation systems and construction costs were expected to price the entire job at around $3.4 million. The city is still waiting for DNR to approve the plans.

A $2.5 million bond issue could be financed through the Rural Development program at low interest over 30 years, Mayor Ron Dutra said. Sewer rates would have to rise to cover the cost. By Allgeier-Martin's calculations, the number of Purdy sewer customers would spread the bill out to where the average customer presently paying $14 a month for 5,000 gallons of sewer use would pay around $42. Water rates would not change.

"That's a lot of money per month, no doubt about it," Davidson said.

A revenue bond requires a simple majority to pass. If voters fail to pass the bond issue, the city risks losing the grant, which Alderman Wayne Ruppia said depends on city utility rates. Freeman reported calling 25 southwest Missouri cities and found Purdy had the lowest rate of all.

If the city fails to act, Davidson said DNR can fine the city $10,000 a day for violating wastewater standards. The city could be taken to court and face a compliance order imposed by a judge.

"The city would face untold expense with engineers and attorneys," Davidson said. Residents at the hearing voiced concern about being placed in the same position as Butterfield, where a water system upgrade was based on a projected number of users. When the total number fell far short of projections, charges doubled for those remaining.

"That's what council members worried about," said Alderman Steve Roden. "Butterfield is staring us in the face. DNR says we have to do this, regardless."

A second public hearing will be held in May on the proposal. Alderman Ken Real said additional information will be back from DNR by then to provide a more complete picture of what the city will have to do to achieve a satisfactory level of compliance.

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