Eureka Worries About Paying for Water System

By Beacon Staff

Eureka officials say the drinking water is fine, but updated quality requirements mean the town will have to install a new filtration system at a price it cannot afford.

Mayor Ethel White said an unfunded mandate from the state requires the installation of a new system before June 2013 and has an estimated price tag of $1 million. Currently the town is looking for state and federal grants to offset the costs, which could raise residents’ monthly water bills.

“They’re all telling us we have to upgrade with no money coming in to do so,” White said. “That’s what I think is unfair.”

Eureka’s town engineer Dick Dyer said the current process takes ground water from near the river and cleans it using two systems: ultraviolet radiation and chlorination. Both of these techniques kill viruses and bacteria within the water, which Dyer said is already a clean source. However, new regulations require a third filtration system because of concerns about surface water getting into the original source. Dyer said the current system was installed in the last decade and has consistently produced clean water.

“This is not a reaction to a problem, it’s a reaction to new rules and regulations,” he said. “The water we pick up and put through the system already looks like drinking water. It looks like it came straight from the well.”

White said when the current system was installed, it was estimated that it would last 20 years, but new regulations have changed that. She worries that installing the new system will increase people’s monthly water bill. Currently, Eureka residents pay a flat rate of $21.53 a month, plus $2 for every 1,000 gallons of water their household uses.

Last week, town officials met to discuss possible ways to pay for the new filtration system. Tracy McIntyre, director of the Eureka Rural Development Partners, said the town will most likely apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development project, but may also look into some loans from the state.

City Councilor Jennifer Hannay, who sits on Eureka’s water and sewer committee, said the priority for the council is to find a way to install the system without raising water rates. She added that it is frustrating that the town has to replace a system that isn’t broken.

“It’s horrible that they are doing this to our tiny town,” she said. “I don’t know how they expect us to pay for it.”

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