Board president hopes water treatment conversion will cost less than anticipated

When Hannibal voters decided last April to discontinue the use of chloramines — a mixture of chlorine and ammonia — in the city’s water disinfection process, it was widely assumed that the next water system would feature granular activated carbon (GAC). However, after other options were proposed, it took months of study by the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) Board before deciding Tuesday to go with GAC after all.

According to Board President Lennie Rosenkrans the decision was made “after learning the good and bad” about the water system options.

“It was a very difficult decision,” said Bill Fisher, board secretary.

“It wasn’t easy,” added Steve Smith, board member.

The three board members present were in agreement regarding the GAC option. The board’s fourth member, Vice President Tim Goodman, was reportedly traveling Tuesday and could not be in attendance.

In addition to GAC, reverse osmosis (RO) and a hybrid system consisting of three elements – preozone, enhanced coagulation and aeration (PECA) – were presented in December as potential options by the engineering firm, Black & Veatch. 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.

Bob Stevenson, general manager of the HBPW, reported Tuesday that the HBPW staff remained divided over the two options, although no one was passionate about their choice. Stevenson, initially a GAC proponent, revealed he had had a change of heart.

Before the HBPW Board rendered its decision it listened to approximately 30 minutes of public comment. Tom Boland warned that the projected rate hikes will be “devastating.” He urged the board to make its decision based on facts.

City Attorney James Lemon cited a fact that the city council had approved an ordinance last September which compels the HBPW Board to move forward with a new, ammonia-free water system.

Rosenkrans reminded the audience that it was the desire of voters to run the city’s water through another treatment system. Regarding the projected cost of the new system Rosenkrans said ratepayers should not expect to get “something for nothing.”

With public estimates that the new system could cost around $25 million, Rosenkrans expressed hope that with the new system being built as “economically as possible” that the project’s “costs will be lower than expected.”

Rosenkrans, who said $10.5 million would be an “ideal outcome,” added that the cost “could be higher which scares me.”

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