The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 25, 2013

Water board explains need for pipeline

By Karen Middleton
news@athensnews-courier.com

— As promised, the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority has provided comparative cost figures in its ongoing negotiations with three government entities to increase water capacity.

LCWSA Chairman Jim Moffatt said Thursday there had been inaccurate information published about the authority’s options and the potential costs to customers.

The News Courier came out editorially two weeks ago, asking for those figures to be made available to the public. The authority has maintained throughout negotiations that it can purchase water more cheaply from Decatur, even taking into account the cost of infrastructure to transport the water.

Moffatt said in a board meeting Thursday he is ready for a decision and set a Sept. 5 date to vote on one of the available options.

“We could, in fact, purchase more water from the City of Athens, but to do so would require that we purchase at a significantly higher rate,” wrote Moffatt in a statement released to news media and concerned parties at mid-day Friday.

“Also, in order to transmit water from the Athens system to our system would require expensive capital improvements within our distribution system, since we do not have a network of large diameter lines leading from our system to Athens’ system. The combination of the higher cost for water coupled with the required capital improvements would impose significant additional costs to our customers.”

According to a comparative table drawn up by the authority’s engineer, Alton Hethcoat, of the Brentwood, Tenn., firm of Hethcoat & Davis, and using 2010 joint-funded study data from Athens Water’s engineering firm, CH2Mhill, the cheaper option would be Decatur.

The table shows:

•Upgrade to the North Limestone Treatment Facility from its present 3.3 MGD (million gallons per day) output and $1.43 per-1,000-gallon cost would cost $3.3 million, resulting in an increased cost per 1,000 gallons to $2.08.

• Increase purchase of Athens water from the present .4 million gallons per day at $1.63 per 1,000 gallons to the projected need of 8 to 10 MGD would require installation of $51 million in infrastructure and increase the cost of water to $3.13 per 1,000 gallons.

• The authority could currently purchase water from Huntsville for $1.62 per thousand gallons and to increase that amount to 8 to 10 MGD through a $10.9 million infrastructure upgrade would bring the cost per 1,000 gallons to $2.03.

• The authority currently buys 3.3 MGD from Decatur at a cost of 97 cents per 1,000 gallons. If it wanted to increase that purchase to 20 MGD, it would cost $17.7 million for pipeline under the Tennessee River, a pumping station and other related infrastructure. The resulting cost would be $1.53 per 1,000 gallons, in comparison to $3.13 for half as much water.

Moffatt said the current authority capacity is 9.9 MGD, but with development, especially in the eastern and southeastern parts of the county, demand can reach 9 MGD.

“During a recent meeting between the City of Huntsville and the authority, officials from Huntsville shared their plan for future development in Limestone County, which included a new Research Park, a TVA Mega-Site, approximately 14,000 new residential sites and hundreds of acres dedicated to commercial development,” said Moffatt.

He added that such a rate of development would use 74 percent of the authority’s overall water demand within the next 10 to 15 years.

Although the authority has met with Athens officials in several informal work sessions in recent weeks trying to come to a mutually agreeable solution, Moffatt said he would call one more work session between all concerned entities before the authority votes.

He said Athens has until then to rebut the authority’s figures.