March 2020 is the deadline to have a new water treatment system up and running

After two months of research and contemplation the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) Board is expected to make a decision soon regarding the city's next water filtration system.

The gravity of the board's pending action can't be overstated, according to Bob Stevenson, general manager of the HBPW.

“I know that the decision we are about to make is going to have a profound and long-term effect on the city as a whole, reflecting on our ability to compete for new industry, to keep the industry we have and to keep our water affordable for those on fixed incomes,” wrote Stevenson in a memo distributed during the January meeting of the HBPW Board.

In December, the board was given three options from which to choose - granular activated carbon (GAC), reverse osmosis (RO) and a hybrid system consisting of three elements – preozone, enhanced coagulation and aeration (PECA). However, because of the system's complexities, PECA was taken off the table as a possibility, leaving GAC and RO up for consideration by board members.

A study conducted by engineering firm Black & Veatch did not offer a clear favorite in terms of cost.

“The study compared the 20-year present worth cost of the GAC plant to an equivalent reverse osmosis plant and reported the present worth costs of the two systems were comparable,” wrote Stevenson. “The GAC plant was estimated to be lower in capital costs and higher in operating costs than the equivalent RO plant. But the present worth cost estimates were so close (within 5 percent) to each other as to be within the margin of error of the study. Both systems should be considered to be financially equivalent.”

Just as cost does not a show an obvious difference, board members have not been able to gain clear-cut guidance from HBPW staff members who continue to disagree over which of the two options would best serve the city's needs.

In his memo Stevenson stressed that the difference of opinion is “mild as no one is passionately for or against either system.

“We all agree the systems are essentially similar and all could live with either choice technically,” he added.

Stevenson also suggested there are “political considerations” that board members may want to factor into their decision.

“The GAC method has been much discussed over a long time. People are comfortable with the thought of it,” he wrote. “The RO system is a new idea to Hannibal residents, offers some operating flexibility to navigate around future changes in regulations and is already somewhat familiar to MoDNR (Missouri Department of Natural Resources) who has to approve every step of whatever we choose to do.”

 

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com