Freistatt resolves public water quality issues

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sewer fee set for those with public water lines and no public water

The Village of Freistatt has struggled through a water quality issue that continued at some level for more than a month, and trustees have approved a new sewer fee that applies to customers who have unused water lines from the village but who still use sewer service.

The water quality issue dated back to the last week in October when a routine water sample tested positive for coliform. Brown water with “a bad taste” suddenly appeared in different parts of town, including at the Trinity Lutheran School. Trustee Brenna Schroeder described the problem at the board’s Nov. 9 meeting. Water Operator Alan Obermann began flushing lines the next day, 10 different times through the end of the month.

The source of the problem was not determined. Subsequent tests were taken showing no bacterial problems, until Nov. 29 when a test at the Freistatt Community Building, 105 E. Third St., came up positive for coliform. A repeat test did not duplicate results. However, a test on Dec. 3 at the No. 2 well by the standpipe also provided a positive test for coliform.

Following instructions by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Obermann then chlorinated the standpipe, allowing the chlorine to work its way through the village system. By the Dec. 14 trustees meeting, the problem appeared to have resolved itself. Obermann continues to monitor the situation.

Coincidentally and apparently unrelated to the water issues, an incident occurred around the same time frame where Randy Davidson, a Freistatt landlord, brought in a water tank and connected it to a mobile home inside the city limits, using a pressure pump to transfer the water throughout the mobile home for his tenant. The village’s water meter to the home had already been shut off and locked up. Davidson did not notify the village of his efforts in time to pull the meter loop before pressure was applied by the outside water source.

Davidson notified the village that he would be hauling water in a stock tank with water from his farm to supply his tenant with water. No date was given or mention that the water would be pressure-pumped into the mobile home.

Davidson’s case offered an unusual scenario for the village: a customer without water service using the village sewer. Sewer bills are determined by the metered volume of water going into a residence. Without a meter, trustees had no way to measure a proper bill for sewage.

There are other property owners in town that do not have metered water and pay sewer service. Clerk Deborah Schoen said those customers have private wells, sanctioned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and have no water lines from the city on their property. Those customers have been grandfathered in and pay a minimum sewer fee. All residents are required to be connected to the village’s sewer system.

Thirty-one years ago, trustees passed an ordinance in an attempt to prevent mobile home parks from developing in Freistatt. That ordinance stated only owner-occupied mobile homes shall be located within the corporate city limits.

The present Board of Trustees recently revised that ordinance to describe “owner” as “51 percent or more owner.” The ordinance also states the Village of Freistatt shall not provide water or sewer service to anyone living in a mobile home that does not meet the qualifications.

Consequently, the current resident in Davidson’s trailer does not qualify to have a utilities account.

To address a customer that has water lines, but chooses not to use them, and receives water from an unauthorized source, trustees adopted a new ordinance. This one established a monthly sewer fee of $100 to any account and/or property when a structure is connected to the village’s water lines but where water service is not recorded by a city meter.

In such cases, the sewer fee was deemed due like any other utility fee, on the regular monthly schedule. The amount was deemed non-refundable nor pro rated in case sewer use ceased, or if metered water usage was restored.

“Any usage of service outside of the billing cycle shall constitute an additional full month billing assessed before an account is officially closed,” the ordinance said.

Unpaid bills would be subject to the village filing a lien against the property, in accordance with state law.

To protect itself against contamination potential, Obermann has begun monthly testing of water going into the property, since its source is unknown and thus creates a liability for the village. Schoen said the tests are being done at village expense, and results are available for a copying fee.

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