A revised Hannibal ordinance would significantly extend the time allowance for the Hannibal Board of Public Works to make the necessary changes to eliminate the use of ammonia in the city's drinking water system as required by a vote of Hannibal residents.
A revised Hannibal ordinance would significantly extend the time allowance for the Hannibal Board of Public Works to make the necessary changes to eliminate the use of ammonia in the city’s drinking water system as required by a vote of Hannibal residents.
The current ordinance, drafted and presented as Proposition 1 in the April municipal ballot, was approved by the city council in May. Following the Board of Public Works (BPW) filing legal action against the city to throw out part or all of the ordinance, the city drafted a new ordinance that would still honor the will of the people to eliminate the use of ammonia as a disinfectant, but also provide what the BPW sees as a reasonable timeframe in which to complete that goal.
Here are five things to know about the revised ordinance, which has not yet been approved by the city council:
1. The new ordinance significantly alters the timeline for changes
The original ordinance drafted and approved by the passage of Prop 1 required the discontinuance of ammonia within 90 days “from the final approval of the council of this ordinance.” The city council approved the ordinance on May 16, meaning Aug. 15 is the deadline. The BPW has repeatedly said it cannot meet the timeframe outlined in the ordinance without violating state drinking water standards.
The revised ordinance allows a greater timespan to elapse before the removal of ammonia as a disinfectant in the drinking water system takes place. It also sets benchmarks not seen in the original ordinance.
BPW must submit “protocols, proposed testing parameters and proposed pilot studies” to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) by March 31, 2018. MoDNR regulates drinking water systems in Missouri. This part of the ordinance amounts to a deadline for the planning phase of the drinking water system conversion.
Once MoDNR approves a tested alternative to the use of ammonia, the BPW can begin construction and the conversion of the water system.
Completion of the conversion, as outlined by the revised ordinance, must be complete by March 31, 2020 — a more than three-and-a-half year extension to turn off the ammonia feed.
2. The new ordinance includes provisions for regular updates
A new provision of the reworked ordinance would require the BPW General Manager to report the city council on progress toward meeting the timeline established in the ordinance. With an extension to convert the water disinfection system, the BPW GM would be required to submit written and oral reports quarterly. The quarterly reports would begin with the Sept. 5 meeting of the city council, according to the reworded ordinance. Should the BPW GM not meet the quarterly report requirement, h/she could face fines and penalties outlined in both the original and revised ordinance.
3. The new ordinance gives additional power to the city manager
Enforcement of the ordinance would fall on the city manager. The revised ordinance also allows the city manager to authorize a designated person to enforce the ordinance. Inspection of the water treatment plant as it relates to the ordinance compliance would fall to the city manager or appointed designee.
4. What the ordinance doesn’t do
The ordinance does not address a complaint by the BPW in its petition to the court. According to the petition, the ordinance may be invalid because it addresses a capital program under the umbrella of the city, which is off limits to public-driven initiative petitions.
5. A vote to replace the old ordinance with the revised version is likely to come soon
Although it hasn’t been formally released, an agenda for the Aug. 15 city council will likely include discussion related to the revised ordinance. Language in the revised ordinance requires the BPW GM to give a quarterly report beginning on Sept. 5. The city council is likely to take quick action because of a window of about three weeks when the BPW would technically be in violation of the current city ordinance. Although an attorney for the city said the city manager doesn’t want to fine city personnel, attorneys for the BPW said the public could compel the city manager to enforce the current ordinance until a revised one is in the books. A request at an Aug. 8 hearing to grant a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of the current ordinance was not granted.
Reach editor Eric Dundon at firstname.lastname@example.org .