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Councilmen Facilitate Conference Call With DNR, and Convene Special Council Session On Tuesday

On Thursday, August 14, City Councilmen Burrely Loftin and Keith Jones, and Ava Mayor Eddie Maggard facili­tated a conference call with repre­sentatives from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The purpose of the teleconferencing session was to directly discuss with DNR the problems and contamination issues with Well No. 7, south of Ava.

At that time, council members not only wanted to grasp a deeper understanding of options, but also gain sound answers to several relevant questions. But, that did not happen.

The conference call, which lasted approximately 90 minutes, was an on-going collection of conversations noting grant money protocols and the lineage associated with creating well No. 7; and, each time council probed for a definitive answer on how to close out the funding deal without chlorinating the drinking water, the response was always the same –– “we’ll have to get back with you on that.”

In the end, nary a question was answered. Here are a few examples:

Councilmen asked if capping the well was a viable option for closing out the project. The response was – “we’ll have to get back with you on that.”

Councilmen also asked if the City of Ava would be responsible to remit the $300,000 in funding to DNR.   Again, the response, “we’ll have to get back with you on that.”

Throughout the phone conference, DNR representatives offered prolific details about working on the project and how the construction, drilling and testing process transpired, but when Ava’s council asked for clarity on the payback option or whether or not the City had the right to cap the well and move on, no assurances or answers were forthcoming.

At one juncture, however, a DNR representative stated the chlorination process does not kill bacteria it only disables or deactivates bacteria. So, that tidbit of information answered why the entire system must be chlorinated –– it was explained as follows: By chlorinating well No. 7, the bacteria in the site is disabled or inactive. However, when the treated water flows into the system and blends with untreated water from the other wells, there is a possibility the bacteria can reactivate. Hence, the entire system must be treated.

In addition to the mayor and two councilmen, the telephone session with DNR was attended by several concerned residents, City of Ava Water and Sewer Department Supervisor Jeff Coffer, Josh Hoppe and Sue Jones with the Douglas County Herald, Joe Corum with KKOZ, John Forrester of Olsson Engineering, and city employees Suzanne Welsh and Janice Lorrain.

On Monday, August 18, council called a special meeting to further discuss well No. 7.   The meeting was held on Tuesday, August 19, and Steven Sturgess, Chief, Public Drinking Water Branch, and Darleen Groner of the Financial Assistance Center, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, were in attendance.

Sturgess started the session by explaining why Ava will not be allowed to treat the contaminated well without treating the entire system. As previously explained during the telephone conference call, Sturgess noted if one well is treated and the rest of the system is not, when the waters run together it causes problems. Those problems may manifest in bad tasting water, or the rejuvenation of the bacteria. He said the bacteria can grow again if the chlorinated residual is lost or diluted.   He also noted the chemical treatment is 99% effective, but not 100% effective, so chlorinating the entire system was necessary to eliminate potential problems.

Sturgess stated “it is a black and white issue. We won’t allow you to use it otherwise.”

He advised council that DNR has fulfilled their end of the agreement and invested money, resources and time, and DNR’s opinion stands that council should finish the project as required.   However, Sturgess also admitted that the agency has no clue why the contamination exists in the Ava well, and that by their standards, the agency does not have enough evidence to declare the well obsolete and an appropriate site for plugging (filling with concrete).

Throughout the discourse council posed several questions, which included the following: chlorine as a hazardous material and chemical classification, constituent and public outcry against chlorinating, and the impact of the well and bacteria on the local underground water source. And, the most important question, what must the City pay back?

Council advised that chlorination was an unacceptable process for the City of Ava, unless DNR plans to force the City to comply. In turn, council asked permission to set the well aside, treat it and flush it periodically, and cap it for future use.

In conclusion, DNR said the two parties must make a legal agreement and formulate a plan. That plan will also delineate maintenance and also set forth a timeline. In terms of the grant money, DNR noted the City must return the $79,000 earmarked for the chlorination process by Sept. 3, and whatever funds have been spent on that process, the City must cover the difference. Total costs associated with the project will be set aside.

In the course of the discussion, DNR pointed out that if the City of Ava receives four violations in a 12 month period, DNR will require and force the issue, and chlorination will not be an option but a requirement. It was also cited that the City of Ava may need to expand water capacity by 2020, and well No. 7 will once again become an issue.

Councilman Bill Long posed the motion to stop the chlorination process, and set well No. 7 aside for future use. Councilman Loftin supported the motion, and the vote was unanimous, 4-0.

City officials attending were: Mayor Eddie Maggard, councilmen David Norman, Keith Jones, Bill Long and Burrely Loftin, City Attorney Larry Tyrrell, Ava Police Chief Reggie Johnson and Corporal Tim Stuart, and city building inspector Kurt McGee.

According to information cited at the meetings, the City of Ava has a water usage of 600,000 gallons per day.