Blaus Wasser offering water to West Texas

When a Blaus Wasser representative stopped through Seminole to offer his company’s services, a Seminole official had a rather reserved response.

“It almost sounded too good to be true,” Seminole City Administrator Tommy Phillips said.

Phillips said his town was facing a 50-70 percent drop in two of its three well fields over the last few years. Additionally, the federal Environmental Protection Agency was getting tough about arsenic in the city’s water, a problem many West Texas towns are facing.

Seminole needed to not only build a treatment center to meet the EPA requirements, but also to find new sources of water. The city would need water to make up the difference in the two poorly performing well fields and to make up a 30 percent loss of water Phillips projected Seminole would see in treating its water.

Phillips estimated it could have cost the city $25-30 million to buy new water sources and build a treatment facility.

What Norm Bangle, a representative of Blaus Wasser, offered was a pipeline into Seminole, bringing water at a price of $2.30 per 1,000 gallons. Blaus Wasser would treat the water elsewhere, taking care of the city’s arsenic issues, and Seminole would be sharing the water from elsewhere in Texas with other towns.

Phillips said the city of Seminole did a lot of research on Blaus Wasser before buying into its offer, talking to officials in Midland and Odessa who were also in talks with Blaus Wasser at the time.

“We feel good about it,” he said. “We’re anticipating a long relationship with this company.”

In Midland, City Manager Courtney Sharp said his city chose to go with another option, the Midland County Freshwater Supply District, in supplying the city with water. But he has nothing but good things to say about Blaus Wasser.

“They were neck and neck,” Sharp said of the proposals submitted by the MCFSD and Blaus Wasser.

“It really came down at the end of the day … We felt like they (MCFSD) were local folks,” Sharp said. He said the Midland County group had a slightly lower price, could guarantee completion more quickly and was a non-profit, all of which also played into the decision.

But Sharp said at the end of the day, Blaus Wasser could just have easily been chosen.

“They seem to be a very good, solid company,” Sharp said.

Blaus Wasser originally offered a rate of $3.15 per thousand gallons in Midland, but Sharp said they came back and offered to meet the Midland County Freshwater Supply District rate of $2.78 after the city of Midland had made its choice.

Sharp said Blaus Wasser and private water companies could be a good option for many cities in West Texas, though.

“I think we’re going to start seeing a lot of these for-profit companies,” Sharp said.

Norm Bangle, the representative from Blaus Wasser, said the company is working with about 20 municipalities in West Texas to try to bring water to those towns.

Blaus Wasser does not offer a cookie-cutter solution to water issues, Bangle said.

“Each city is a little different,” Bangle said.

While some already have an adequate supply, they might need help financing water treatment because of arsenic or fluoride issues. Other towns, like Seminole, need both supply and treatment.

Instead of each of those towns being forced to build a treatment plant, Bangle said it often makes more sense to build one large facility and pipe the water out to surrounding communities, splitting the costs between them.

The dollar amount attached to each city’s water will vary based on how many towns the treatment facility could be split among.

Bangle said Blaus Wasser is also working to build a desalination plant for the city of Odessa.

Phillips said that in Seminole, there is a solution to the city’s water needs that did not involve going $30 million in debt, and he seemed pleased about that.

Seminole will be retiring all of its wells, Phillips said.

“We don’t see a real downside to this,” he said. Although he said it is going to be 10 to 15 percent more expensive for customers, he said buying additional water rights and building a treatment plant would have been “significantly more than that.”

Blaus Wasser has offered to either sell water to Wolfforth at a fee per 1,000 gallons or to be involved in financing and building its electrodialysis reversal water treatment system.

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