On Nov. 8, Mayor Steven Ellis invited representatives from Miami County Rural Water District No. 2 to attend a public hearing regarding water quality issues during the Nov. 14 City Council meeting. Rural Water District No. 2 declined this opportunity to hear directly from Spring Hill water customers impacted by a boil advisory earlier this month. During the City Council meeting, Mayor Ellis encouraged residents to voice their concerns at the next Rural Water District No. 2 board meeting 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9 at the District Office, 255th Street and Harmony Road, Hillsdale, Kansas.
Read below Rural Water District No. 2's letter as well as Mayor Ellis' Nov. 15 response to that letter.
Rural Water District No. 2 letter text:
RE: Invitation to Public Hearing Regarding Water Quality
Dear Mayor Ellis,
Jerry Bennett and I would like to extend our appreciation to you and Jim Hendershot for taking your time to meet with us. We fully understand your need to discuss this recent issue and insure than your citizens are advised of the steps that will be taken to address the issue. We feel the meeting was very productive and we hope you reciprocate the feeling as well. The Board discussed your request to have use represent Miami County RWD 2 at a public hearing to discuss the root cause and any corrective action that may be taken at the water treatment plant. The root cause of the issue is well established at this point. As was stated at our meeting, it was caused by the entry of water with a high turbidity level into our distribution system, and the law and good practice require the issuance of a boil advisory in case their is biological contamination in the water system as a result. The boil advisory was rescinded when it was determined that the turbidity incident did not cause a contamination problem, and the water was safe.
We can also assure the City that the District is fully committed to working with the City to address water quality concerns of this nature. Also, we understand the concern about communication with the City and have addressed the communication concerns by updating our Emergency Operations Plan to include "local incidents." Our staff will be discussing this protocol with your staff in the near future. Additionally, a long term solution is in process as our plant is entering into an upgrade phase from 6 million gallon per day capacity to 12 million gallons per day. This expansion will allow the installation of new treatment methods that should improve water quality while avoiding substantial cost increase to provide economical service for all customers of the District. We value Spring hill's partnership and would like to extend an invitation to a council committee or any individual council members to meet with our board to help address any concerns you might have. Our staff regularly communications with Spring Hill staff and we look forward to that relationship continuing. Last of all, we invite any patrons of Spring hill to arrange to tour our facility. We are always happy to discuss treatment technologies with our customers and we will be able to show current methods of treatment for quality water, and the improvements that will be made.
Towards this end, the Board feels that public meeting in the manner suggested is not the best way to address these issues. We feel addressing the issue directly between public entities is a more effective meant to foster a better working relationship, as discussion of matters beyond the well-known causes requires in-depth understanding of the facilities and treatment methods involved. We can all agree that occasionally quality issues will occur in any system, and that the procedures employed in this instance protected the public and your citizens. However, there is always room for improvement and the District is working diligently towards that end.
Please contact our offices if we can assist in arrangements for a meeting with the Board or a plant tour.
Very truly yours,
James P. Dycus
Miami County Rural Water District No. 2
Mayor Ellis' Nov. 15 response:
RE: Water Quality Issues
Dear Chairman Dycus,
While I appreciate your letter of Nov. 14, 2019, I must point out that your statement the at the root cause of the water quality issues from earlier this month as being "well-established" is incorrect. Water with a high turbidity level may have been the reason for poor water quality, but the District has not addressed the root cause as to how water with a high turbidity level was allowed to infiltrate the system. Further, the District did not address the irreversible corrective action it is taking to prevent a reoccurrence, nor did it address the steps being taken to ensure the District timely communicates issues to Spring Hill.
It is not my intention to engage in a public spat with the District;however, my residents were impacted by this incident and have lost confidence in one of the most basic services for which they pay a premium. The residents of Spring Hill deserve answers beyond the circular reasoning that the water was dirty because dirty water infiltrated the system.
If your representatives are afraid to face the public, at least demonstrate that the District is taking this issue seriously by issuing a report of findings that outlines the root cause as to how water with a high turbidity level infiltrate the system as well as outline the steps being taken to prevent this issue from occurring again. Restoring public confidence in water safety must be a priority.
Steven M. Ellis
The Hon. Molly Baumgardner
The Hon. Adam Thomas