What is the study?
Solving our water quality issues calls for community-wide problem-solving. There are widespread concerns and we all need to be engaged to find a solution that satisfies the variety of concerns and perspectives heard throughout the community.
In 2014/2015, the Longview Drinking Water Improvement Study evaluated options for improving water quality. An independent engineering firm was hired and a Customer Advisory Committee (CAC) was convened. The goal of the Customer Advisory Committee was to provide a recommendation for a sustainable, safe and satisfactory water supply for Longview/BHWSD water customers. The committee’s recommendation was to move our water source from the current Mint Farm groundwater supply to the Cowlitz River via riverbed collector wells. This recommendation was presented to the Longview City Council and Beacon Hill Water & Sewer District Board on August 20, 2015.
In October, 2015, an amendment to the consultant’s contract was approved to analyze potential sites for a new water supply along the Cowlitz River using riverbed collector wells. During the first half of 2016, four sites along the Cowlitz River were explored to investigate horizontal collector wells as a source of water to replace the Mint Farm aquifer. Initially, three sites were tested but less than desirable results prompted consideration of a fourth site. In the end, two sites proved feasible in regards to capacity but water quality testing showed high levels of iron, manganese, hardness and silica (download water quality test results and comparison, PDF 128 kb), the same constituents which are the cause of many of the current customer complaints.
The decision facing the City Council and BHWSD Commissioners was whether to approve funds for additional long-term testing to determine whether water quality may have improved over time or to cease further investigation of riverbed wells.
In a special joint meeting on July 28, 2016, City Council and BHWSD Commissioners decided to cease further investigation of collector wells and reconsider improvement options for the Mint Farm water treatment process.
What's happening now?
The City and BHWSD are currently looking into additional treatment processes to improve water quality from Mint Farm and address some of the issues that have concerned customers. Later this year, staff will recommend next steps to address taste and odor complaints and propose methods to evaluate treatment options for silica removal.
Where can I learn more about the CAC?
The CAC's role on the project has officially ended; however, the CAC may be reconvened for special sessions as the project moves forward. All CAC meetings are open to the public and include designated time for public comment. Summaries are posted online following each meeting. Visit the CAC webpage for the most up-to-date information and meeting dates.
What options were studied?
The initial study process considered more than 50 improvement options ranging from alterations to the current water treatment methodology to replacing the current source entirely. All suggestions from CAC members and community members were welcomed during the process. Various criteria, including cost, aesthetics and effectiveness, were used to assess and compare the options.
In August 2015, the Community Advisory Committee presented their recommendation to the Longview City Council and Beacon Hill Water & Sewer District board to investigate moving the water source from the current Mint Farm groundwater supply to the Cowlitz River via riverbed collector wells.
Following disapointing water quality tests from potential Cowlitz River sites, City Council and BHWSD Commissioners decided to cease further investigation of collector wells and reconsider improvement options for the Mint Farm water treatment process.
How can I weigh in?
The study included many opportunities for community members who were not on the CAC to participate and provide feedback, including online surveys, a public open house, an overview video, stakeholder interviews and public comment at CAC meetings. The public will continue to be kept informed and involved as the process moves forward. Join the mailing list to receive updates.
How will decisions be made?
The Longview City Council and the BHWSD Board of Commissioners make final decisions regarding changes to the water supply. The decision-making structure of the initial study process (2014/2015), including input from the CAC and broader community, is shown in the diagram below.
What is the budget for the study?
The budget for the initial 2014/2015 study was $217,000 and included the customer survey. In October 2015, the consultant’s contract was amended to analyze potential sites for a new water supply along the Cowlitz River using riverbed collector wells. The amended scope of work to add the collector well feasibility study required an authorization of $327,550 in additional funds. As of August 2016, approximately $441,000 has been spent to re-evaluate water supply options. The remaining contract funds will be used to reconsider Mint Farm treatment options.
What will improving our system mean to my water bill?
We won’t know for sure how much it will cost to improve our drinking water system until we have completed testing and settled on what action(s) to take. Cost estimates for various improvement options were prepared and used as one evaluation criteria to select a preferred course of action. Rough cost estimates for moving to a new Cowlitz River source via riverbed collector wells involved rate increases of $10-$24 per month for an average household. Now that the scope has changed to additional treatment options at the Mint Farm facility, the monthly rate impacts vary from $0.70 -$25 per household depending on the preferred treatment method. Treatment options for silica removal range from $16-$25 per month. Final recommendations will include a combination of treatment options for interim improvements to address taste and odor complaints while long-term solutions for silica removal are being evaluated, designed and implemented.