Cities check out Wolfforth’s water treatment study

Some of the 50 people gathered to get information on electrodialysis reversal and take a look at Wolfforth’s pilot study last week are officials from other towns. They are also under federal orders to reduce arsenic levels in water.

Wolfforth received a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in July 2011 ordering the city to fix its water issues within 18 months. The city has since received an extension on that order.

Other West Texas cities which received the order including Meadow, New Home, Opdyke West, Smyer and Wellman.

Wolfforth City Secretary Debbie Perkey said about 20 of the people at the open house meeting about Wolfforth’s EDR treatment center were from the city of Wolfforth. Others were from surrounding cities, as well as a few representatives of area politicians.

Smyer City Councilman Chris Bradberry said the small town of less than 500 is still working out a plan for responding to the EPA order. Like Wolfforth, Smyer has received an extension on the original 18-month order.

Jaime Torres, public works director in Smyer, said that although he was very impressed with Wolfforth’s pilot study on electrodialysis reversal, he doesn’t see how Smyer can afford it.

“We have very limited funds. When you’re talking about something like this, $4 million, the city of Smyer can’t afford that,” Torres said. He said he wishes there were funding assistance from the government — especially the federal government, because it is forcing the changes.

Smyer City Secretary JoAnn Beard said the city just got word last week that it’s loan request for $350,000 was approved.

But Torres said he is worried about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s requirement that each city do a pilot study on the water treatment system it chooses to use.

“They (Wolfforth) are doing a study on it, and they’re paying $80,000. We can’t afford to spend $80,000 out of $350,000 for a pilot study,” Torres said. “Right now, it’s looking like we’re going to have to do it.”

Torres said Wolfforth’s system is “very promising,” but he said it is simply not affordable in Smyer.

Bradberry agreed, adding that he likes the EDR system because it will be expandable as Wolfforth grows, but it is just too expensive for Smyer.

“Water’s on everybody’s mind,” said Wolfforth City Manager Darrell Newsom to the open house crowd.

He said Wolfforth had been trying to get the system approved with the TCEQ even before the EPA demanded that it fix its water.

Wolfforth decided to go with EDR for water treatment because it allows the city to recover more water than other treatment systems. Wolfforth officials have previously estimated they could recover as much as 90 percent of the water they treat, while reverse osmosis recovers far less.

Representatives from General Electric, the company that makes the EDR equipment Wolfforth is currently testing, were at the open house to talk about EDR.

Patrick Girvin, a GE official, said EDR units have been installed in five communities in Texas since Wolfforth first started looking into the technology five years ago, including the city of Sherman and Jim Hogg County.

Girvin said GE recommended EDR to Wolfforth rather than reverse osmosis because water is so scarce in West Texas. The company sells both types of filtration units, Girvin said.

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