Jay MillerRifle, CO Colorado

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June 13, 2012
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If there's no new plant, can you carry water?

I really appreciate the effort the Citizen Telegram has made to be objective in covering the discussion of a new water treatment plant for Rifle. While publishing the comments of detractors of the plant, the paper has not called anyone on the City Council nor any of the city staff to verify or clarify any of the comments made by others or to summarize the need for the new plant. It would be a courtesy to Rifle's citizens if they knew their councilor's responses to these charges.It is important every citizen of Rifle understand the primary responsibility of your City Council is to ensure you have clean, healthy water delivered to your home 24 hours per day, seven days per week, year in and year out. Second to that comes your safety, and we provide that through police and fire protection. Everything else, we do what we can.Several citizens asked why we couldn't just let the Graham Mesa plant run until it fails. We could do that if we ignored our primary responsibility. Everyone needs to understand that when the plant goes down, no water will be coming to our homes. Boil orders will not be needed when there is no water. The city will provide a water truck at a downtown location, such as the Family Dollar parking lot, for people to come and draw water to take home to use to drink, bathe and flush their toilets. Clothes can be laundered in a nearby town. Since it could take two weeks to two months or more to make major repairs to the plant, how much would you be willing to pay to have water service restored sooner? Thirty dollars per month? One hundred dollars per month? Two hundred dollars per month? What will that inconvenience be worth then? We know the Graham Mesa plant has exceeded its design life expectancy. It has been running continuously for more than 30 years. What appliance in your home has run continuously for that long? Other than your water treatment plant, do you know of any piece of machinery that has lasted that long without a major breakdown or major repair? Parts are no longer being made for this plant and have to be manufactured from drawings. That is why it will take so long to repair. No one knows when the plant will fail. No councilor knows. No engineer knows and no one in the community knows. The City Council is gambling right now that the current plant will make it until the new plant is on line in two or three years. A tour through the plant is eye opening. We've had several open houses at the Graham Mesa plant and not one citizen thought it important enough to visit. Mr. John Steele was given a personal invitation to visit the plant and flatly refused to go. We are sticking our heads in the sand if we think there is no risk in not building a new plant.Many citizens suggested raw water for irrigation is better than using treated water. No one disagrees in principle. Silt and Fruita have a dual system for potable and irrigation water. We have looked at this several times over the years. The decision should have been made when Rifle had a population of less than 2,000 people. Estimates for the construction of a raw water system today runs between $30 million and $45 million. It would involve installing more than 60 miles of pipeline, along with all the other required facilities and components.Let's ignore those estimates and assume the raw water system cost to be the same as the water treatment plant, or $25 million. Here are our choices:1. Build the raw water irrigation system for $25 million and pay the same increase in water rates that are planned now. In addition, there would be a $10 to $20 monthly operations and maintenance during the irrigation months, April through September.2. Ignore construction of a new water treatment plant for the 20 years required to pay off the raw water system and hope that it doesn't experience a major failure during that time. But if it does, we choose carrying water to our homes preferable to a new plant.3. Build the new water treatment plant for $25 million and irrigate with potable water without the $10 to $20 O&M fee above the planned water fee increases we have now.4. Do neither and cross our fingers while investing in portable water containers.5. Building both now is an unreasonable option.What do you think? Is it preferable to carry water to our homes or build a new plant? Finally, we have spent six years trimming this plant down from $43 million to the present $25 million and still provide the services the citizens of Rifle have been asking for. You definitely will not have a "Cadillac" system. You will have a "Ford" system - sturdy, reliable and definitely without the Cadillac price.

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The Post Independent Updated Jun 13, 2012 06:06PM Published Jun 13, 2012 06:05PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.