PARKVILLE, Mo. — Despite the best efforts to discover the source of the water particle problem in Parkville, Missouri American Water still can’t come up with answers.
Jody Carlson, the utility’s area executive director, gave the Parkville Board of Aldermen a report at the regular meeting Tuesday, May 3. Missouri American reported they had received minimal complaints up through February 2010 when residents in the Thousand Oaks subdivision started reporting issues with water quality. Since then, the utility has investigated the problem and performed flushes of the system and run several tests.
Outside consultants have been utilized, and aldermen requested their reports be made available.
Carlson said it’s important to understand that the water is being treated the same way it has since Missouri American Water took over service for the area in 1993. Since Missouri has hard water, softening treatments with lime are used, and this can cause a buildup of calcium scale deposits in pipes.
More than 85 percent of the US has hard water, Carlson said, so this problem is hardly uncommon.
However, the utility has been unable to pinpoint what is causing the excess buildup of calcium in the homes of some customers, and the problem seems to be spreading, although in sporadic areas. While originally most calls originated in the Thousand Oaks area, now there have been reports in Riss Lake, Montebella and The National.
“Above everything else, we want people to know the water is safe,” Carlson said.
The calcium buildup has not affected the actual safety of the water, which has been tested at company labs in Illinois and New Jersey and by the Department of Natural Resources.
Since most of the reports have surfaced in newer subdivisions, Carlson said the company is investigating whether PEX pipe, a newer, flexible plastic composite piping used in modern construction, could be causing the problems. So far, those tests have proved inconclusive, and additional testing is under way.
Additionally, a new carbon dioxide filtering system will come online at the water plant by the end of May. Any resulting changes this could make to the water quality will take three to six months to see in the system, Carlson said.
Although the utility has ruled out the water plant itself as the source of the particulate, the plant is the oldest in the company’s system and is scheduled for replacement. The new plant is expected to come online by the end of 2017, and Carlson said he hopes that will improve the situation but cannot make any guarantees.
For the time being, the utility will continue to work on the problem.
Attorney Joe Bednar also updated the board on Missouri American Water’s pending rate increase before the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Last year, the utility filed with the PSC for a 19.63 percent rate increase to the base rates for both its water and wastewater customers. The nearly 20 percent increase is somewhat misleading for Platte County customers as some municipalities do not contract through the utility for wastewater treatment and a large part of the increase is due to those sewer operations.
The City of Parkville handles its own water treatment, and Riverside currently contracts with the City of Kansas City for those services. Only 105 customers in Platte County are serviced by Missouri American Water’s wastewater system. Those customers would pay an additional $4.28 per month.
Part of Missouri American Water’s proposal includes the consolidation of Mexico, Mo. and Jefferson City, Mo. into the Platte County district. If the Public Service Commission approves this regional consolidation of rates, the average water customer in Platte County could see a reduction of nearly 10 percent, or about $6 per month. It is unknown how the rate commission will rule, but there was a similar consolidation approved recently in the Branson, Mo. Area.
Bednar said while the city’s and utilities share an interest in seeing the water district consolidation approved, there is still disagreement over the rate increase itself. Customers dealing with problems with particulate in their water deserve a rebate, Bednar argued, and suggested rolling back rates to 2008 levels until the problems can be solved.
“The damages those residents are suffering are now in the tens and thousands of dollars,” Bednar said. “Those homes can’t be sold; they need new water filtration systems, new water heaters, new appliances.”
With this in mind, Bednar reported he had filed a petition with the PSC to seek that rollback for customers and possibly to seek arbitration in dealing with concerns. Water customers may send comments in writing to the Public Service Commission via its website at psc.mo.gov.
Missouri American Water serves about 1.5 million customers, mostly in the St. Louis area, but also services the Branson and St. Joseph areas.
It is a subsidiary of American Water Inc., based in Voorhees, N.J.