Colusa residents asked to spout off on city water
• Do nothing. Authorizes no treatment and no cost increase.
• Sequestration: Chemical addition to deal with iron, manganese. Does not address odor. Cost is $3.07 more per month.
• Aeration: Oxidizes the iron, but not the manganese. Helps with odor, but will not remove anything from the water. Cost is $15.51 more per month.
• Oxidation & Filtration: Oxidation is already done through chlorination, this also takes iron, manganese out of the water. Cost is $21.32 more each month. @
• Oxidation, Aeration & Filtration: Combines all treatments but sequestration. Cost is $29.16 more a month.
@ City recommended option
Colusa residents take pride in their tree-lined streets.
They support local sports and music programs, crow about the beautiful Victorian homes — and most recently, they even claimed as their own a falcated duck from Asia.
OK, half of the residents claimed the duck; the other half wanted it mounted.
The one thing Colusa residents take little or no pride in is their tap water.
The location in the city seems to dictate to what lengths residents will go to escape drinking or even using the water to wash dishes.
What the city wants to know is whether they are willing to pay between $3.07 and $29.16 more a month on their water bill to treat the water.
They also have the option to say do nothing, which means the water would not be treated right away, but no additional costs would be added to the water bill.
If the survey is not signed and returned, under provisions of state law, the city will assume the resident wants the recommended treatment of oxidation and filtration.
That would add $21.32 per month to the water bill.
At issue is the iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide levels in the water, which comes from deep wells located around the city. The minerals do not pose a health risk, but create the look, odor and taste that residents are trying to avoid.
The deadline set to return the survey is April 15.
However, the city has to collect answers from at least 50 percent-plus-one of the approximate 2,200 service hook-ups before it can make any determination.
Public Works Director Dale Kleever said Colusa's water is not as bad as some say, especially since the implementation of a new chlorination process that he feels has reduced the worst of any odor problems.
But the state has determined the city exceeds the Secondary Maximum Containment Levels for iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide.
When city officials told the state they have a new water master plan that will address the issue, it did not convince the state.
The California Department of Public Health told the city it either had to come up with a dated treatment plan, or show the agency through a survey process that the residents are willing to accept the water as it is.
So the city sent out a letter with a survey in the April water bill asking the residents what they want.
"This is only half the story, and that's why (the residents) are upset," Kleever said.
The city just went through an extensive master water plan process, and before that a highly contentious water rate debate.
The bottom line is the city plans to seek a combination grant and low-interest loan in excess of $5 million to fund the development of one, or possibly two new wells.
Each well would have new treatment and filtration systems, and according to Kleever, would produce enough water for the entire city.
The plan also addressed the treatment of the other wells at the same time as necessary.
Then along came the state Department of Public Health.
"We are in exceedance of the Secondary Maximum Containment Levels, so we have to do something," Kleever said.
The city fully expects the residents to vote against any kind of rate increase.
"It's their choice," Kleever said.
If that happens, the city will move ahead as planned with the water master plan.
If by chance the residents are willing to pay more to treat the water now, the city will still move ahead with the master plan, but it would be adjusted not to duplicate the treatment work.
But getting enough surveys back in a timely manner is an issue. Some communities that have gone through similar processes, including Williams, have found it takes months - even years - to collect the necessary numbers.
Colusa wants to make sure that does not happen.
The City Council recently authorized the Public Works Department to hire two or three people to go door-to-door to get those answers if not enough residents return the survey on their own by the April 15 deadline.
The individuals, many of whom will be hired through the Colusa County One Stop, will be paid $2 for every form collected.
"But we have had a lot of response," Kleever said Thursday.
The council also was told this week that the same letter needs to go out in Spanish to make sure the Hispanic population can have a fair opportunity to understand the options and cast votes.
It is not required, but city officials said they would look into the possibility.
There have been concerns by people who own multi-family dwellings such as duplexes and apartment complexes, and whether they get to vote for those properties or whether individual tenants get to vote.
The answer is based on the number of hook-ups at physical addresses. The person whose name is associated with the hook-up gets the vote, city officials said.
The real problem, Kleever said, would come if the city does not qualify for the grant and low-interest loan.
That would require the city to push back the development of the new well in favor of taking care of water mains and other critical infrastructure.
Eventually a new well will be needed, and that could mean some kind of water rate increase to pay for that work.