City moves forward on water issues

council 03-18-14

By Traci Chapman

While some neighbors of Mustang’s wastewater treatment plant are calling foul because of odor emanating from it, state officials say the city is moving in the right direction in addressing issues connected with the complex.

Department of Environmental Quality inspectors visited the plant June 5, following up on complaints received in May, Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney said.

“DEQ stated that they believed the odor issue was not as bad as when they had previously visited our facility and that the steps both staff and Severn Trent were taking were appropriate towards long-term resolution of the odor problems,” Rooney stated in a June 5 email to city council members.

Severn is the city’s public works contractor, responsible for operation of Mustang’s wastewater treatment plant.

Odor issues at the plant became more pronounced because of recent weather, the city manager said. Bacteria required days of hot temperatures and sunlight, something in intermittent supply in recent weeks, he said.

“We’ve had a few days of temperatures in the 90s but then it drops down and we get some rain too,” Rooney said. “It’s a very biological process.”

The good news for the plant’s neighbors was DEQ inspectors’ prognosis about the plant’s status, Rooney said.

“It just takes time,” he said. “They told us it’s about a six-week process and it’s been about four weeks since we first started hearing about the smell.”

Officials also contacted Garver Engineering, original designers of the wastewater plant, to review operations and give another perspective on odor issues, Rooney said. Garver representatives should be visiting the city in the near future, he said.

While the odor situation seemed to be improving, so too did an ongoing issue with arsenic levels discovered in city water supplies, according to a DEQ Addendum to a Feb. 12, 2008, consent order entered into by the city.

Oklahoma Environmental Quality Codes dictate any public water supply not contain more than .010 part per million or milligram per liter of water (mg/L). Since October 2012, Mustang historically tested at .014 mg/L in arsenic levels; that number dipped in testing conducted between April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014, DEQ officials said.

“Ten years ago these wouldn’t have been a violation, and it’s important to note the measurement was taken at the blending station, which is located at County Line,” Rooney said. “That station was offline at the time, now it’s back on.

“To get those numbers down, you just buy more water from Oklahoma City,” he said.

Residents did not need to worry about arsenic levels because the tests did not reflect the water coming out of their taps, Rooney said. Arsenic is a “pretty common problem” for about two-thirds of the state, he said.

“That’s one reason for the rate increase, to address arsenic levels,” the city manager said.

City council on June 3 approved a 7 percent water increase in October as part of Mustang’s $20.381 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

Mustang must supplement its water supplies with Oklahoma City water, not only to address arsenic issues but also to meet demand, officials said. The rate increase was needed to help buffer double-digit rate increases incurred as a result of those OKC water purchases.

It was the first utility rate increase implemented by the city of Mustang since 2005, Rooney said.

“We know it’s never a good thing to have to raise utility rates, it’s not something we like to do, but it’s something that’s necessary in a situation like this,” Rooney said concerning the rate hike.

The amount Mustang pays for Oklahoma City water jumped from $9.24 to $13.75, a 48.81 percent hike, while rates increased by 16.92 percent, from $2.01 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons.

Mustang implemented a Consumer Price Increase in 2009; those types of adjustments are not considered a “utility rate increase” by officials.

Odor and arsenic issues were part of an overall plan to upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Rooney said. According to the DEQ Addendum, Mustang has until Jan. 1, 2015, to submit a request for “prorated limits for increase in design flow” from 2 million gallons to 3 million gallons per day. The city must submit an engineering report to the state agency by July 1, 2015.

“We’re in the process of doing that now,” he said.