Maryville has heard complaints about its public water from citizens for several years, but in the midst of city staff and Public Works problem-solving to limit recurring issues, recent federal deregulation has begun to put local governments like Maryville in a bind with priorities.
As announced the week of Jan. 13, Mozingo Lake saw a large algae bloom that had potential for harmful toxins. One reason for such algae blooms is agricultural runoff, which can oversaturate a body of water with far too many nutrients or even add harmful chemicals that affect wildlife.
City Manager Greg McDanel outlined a plan for the city, including addressing this issue and saying water quality has been and still remains at the top of the city’s priorities going forward.
“There were also no violations that occurred during the 2019 calendar year,” McDanel said. “Even though the report is not complete.”
The Trump administration is removing clean water protections acts that were set in place to protect rivers, streams and other bodies of water from pollution and runoff from industrial and commercial facilities.
With at least seven larger-scale local agriculture entities operating close to streams and water that lead to Mozingo Lake, as well as land owners with homes near the lake, deregulation is leaving the responsibility of safe practices to the businesses and individuals themselves.
Though the city is still weighing its options on how to best tackle the issue, McDanel said staff has a few options at its disposal.
“(We are) working with individual farmers to know what kind of nutrients are coming off their properties, and what we can do in partnership to reduce those,” McDanel said.
McDanel outlined a plan to the city council at its Jan. 27 meeting, showing that whatever route the staff chose, it would likely come with a price tag that’s hard to look at.
One of the options was directed toward solving the issue of water odor and color complaints the city has received time and again, which would come in the form of updating the filters the city used to a granular-activated carbon.
However, the additions required to add this upgrade would cost the city $6.6 million, meaning a shifting of funds would likely take place to get that job done.
Council members took to the idea of making necessary changes even if it meant taking on a hefty expense.
Councilman Tye Parsons said he would rather take a painful hit financially in the short term if it meant a more efficient, better lasting system for water treatment in the long term.
“I don’t want to take the Band-Aid approach,” Parsons said.
On Jan. 13, when the city announced a potential for cyanobacteria, it also posted warning signage at the lake in accordance with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, warning people to avoid contact with the lake’s water.
The warning was issued since testing revealed an increasing amount of blue algae blooming, that in turn has the capability to produce cyanotoxins, which can be harmful to animals and humans.
Throughout this process, McDanel assured citizens the water in town was safe to drink, though annually the city tends to have issues with water from anywhere public water can be accessed in the form of discoloration and unappealing odors from cleansing chemicals at the facility.
To further assess this issue, the council will tour the water facility Feb. 10, communicating with Public Works on what governmental moves are necessary going forward.
“In hindsight, this is something that should have been started with the development of the lake and been made a top priority,” McDanel said.
Concerned citizens have reached out to the council, asking if there are other viable water sources in the surrounding area like the 102 River and Nodaway Lake. However, the process of developing filter systems to accommodate the new body of water could be as expensive as finding ways to curb existing issues.
According to the 2014-2018 water quality reports, no violations were recorded by the city water system, and it has met the minimum standards of the Missouri DNR. The city runs multiple tests as required by the DNR and conducts more evaluations than required to ensure water quality.
The Northwest Missourian reached out to the DNR, but they did not respond in time for publication. However, its annual reports suggested the biggest issues with runoff into Mozingo — though the city still met minimum standards — were from soil on properties close to the lake from natural erosion.
The most recent report, the 2018 annual water quality report, in which the city recorded no violations, showed a range of 1.42 to 8.41 parts per million of lead in the water from corrosion of household plumbing systems. The minimum safety standard for lead in water due to these systems, as passed by congress in 2011, is 15 parts per billion or 0.015 milligrams per liter of water.
This is one component the DNR sites as a cause for odor or potential harm if the levels rise above acceptable standards. The DNR provides extensive information on how lead could be dangerous in elevated levels in the annual water quality report documents but says the source is usually associated with service lines and home plumbing needing updated.
With the most recent round of DNR tests once again coming out inconclusive, the city has still not recorded cyanotoxins in the lake.
However, much like how lead affects odor and taste, the bacteria impairs the water's ability to appear clean because of the extensive filtering and chemical process it goes through.
The city is considering the various routes of attack and prevention as spelled out by McDanel and Public Works.
One concern being immediately handled at the water facility is replacing membranes that aid in filtering the water, which Public Works Director C.E. Goodall has been using two years past their normal lifespan.
“We have to do more cleans on (the old membranes) which in turn causes us issues with cold water production,” Goodall said. “This time of year is when we see the biggest issues.”
In the cold winter months, Public Works has its hands busy with repairing city roads prone to potholes, keeping an eye on water lines and an array of other duties that include being on top of how the water facility functions.
Goodall said the frequent tests with the DNR have provided the staff consistency and the ability to reach out for other sources for help.
“We’ve just had no luck with the treatments in the lake,” Goodall said. “I don’t know if it’s got a resistance to it this year, or what it is, but we’re just not getting that kill like we had before.”
Goodall said that though the city is meeting all standard, minimum regulations, the cause for better solutions is prominent. The city will continue to conduct extensive testing with the DNR and problem solve with biologists and engineers with the University of Missouri.