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Fairmont water to be scrutinized

April 15, 2009
Meg Alexander — Staff Writer

FAIRMONT - A thorough study of technology to improve the taste and smell of Fairmont's drinking water was approved Tuesday, but the process won't begin until August, when odor issues typically peak.

The Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the pilot study for $130,000, but not without first questioning its merit.

Three treatment technologies are being considered to control taste and odor when the new water plant is built. Ozone, ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide and granular activated carbon-capped filters will be put to the test this summer. Each technology will be used to treat water when Budd Lake is at its smelliest.

Renting the equipment to have on site is $22,580. Lab fees to analyze the results are $28,000. Onsite management is $22,100. The remaining costs for the project will include administration, plan development, equipment procurement and coordination, data collection and analysis, the pilot study report, meetings and other expenses.

The equipment for testing will be on site for four weeks in August, banking on an algae spike during that time. It's a risk, since last year the spike occurred in the spring.

"We'll try to capture the naturally occurring event, but if not, we can induce one," said Grant Meyer, operations manager for Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc.

Commissioners wondered how well the mimicked spikes would work for testing the technologies' effectiveness. They hoped to save money by cutting the cost of renting the equipment for on-site testing.

Doing so would save nearly $30,000, but the rest of the fees would still apply for the project, said David Brown, consultant with Advanced Engineering.

"I would be more comfortable with a real event than spiked," said Butch Hybbert, water plant supervisor. "... I think it's the most important part of the design of the plant at this point."

Given the expense of the new plant - $32 million - commissioners decided not to skimp on testing the effectiveness of the taste and odor technology.

When the time comes for the actual testing to take place, the commission plans to have a panel of citizens evaluate which technologies work best to eliminate odor from Fairmont's water.

"It can be interesting to compare the odor panel (opinion) to empirical data," Meyer said. "... And from a public perception standpoint, the odor panel will go a long way."



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