March 5, 2019
Before the Q&A portion of the Meeting, OWSI staff presented a timeline of positive total coliform events. Then the HDR water engineer presented the options that were considered for the manganese treatment. Lastly, OWSI staff presented details of the proposed surcharge.
The questions presented in the FAQ are those asked by ratepayers who attending the Informational Meeting held at the Beach Club on March 5th. Answers were provided by the panel of OWSI, PLA, HDR Engineers, the State Department of Health (DOH), and the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) representatives.
- The WUTC provided a handout. In that handout it describes two types of surcharges – mandatory and voluntary. What type of surcharge is being proposed for the Manganese Filtration Project? (DOH) Due to the positive total coliform events last year, the DOH is recommending full-time chlorination. It would be formally required if it was not done voluntarily by OWSI. (WUTC) Since the DOH is requiring water system improvements, this is a “mandatory” surcharge as defined by the WUTC.
- Would the proposed surcharge require a vote of the community? (WUTC) “Voluntary” surcharges as defined by the WUTC are those that are voted on by the community for projects such as back-up generators and other projects that are not required for water quality. Since the DOH is requiring water system improvements, this is a “mandatory” surcharge as defined by the WUTC which does not go to a vote of the community.
- You (OWSI) became aware of this problem in 2000. Why didn’t you begin setting up a reserve account then to address this problem? (OWSI) Over the last 20 years, we’ve tried to handle the problem with flushing and occasional chlorination. Because of the positive total coliform events last year, we now need to initiate plans to chlorinate full-time which will oxidize the manganese in the water. Therefore, the filtration project is needed.
- You (DOH) mentioned that there would be some water quality testing as part of this project. What types and limits of contaminates are you looking at? (DOH) The project will involve testing including biological disinfection, removal of inorganic contaminants (especially arsenic, iron, and manganese), prevention of disinfection byproducts, prevention of corrosion effects, and prevention of additional aesthetic problems. Finished water quality must comply with State and federal requirements. Follow up monitoring (testing) will be required to assure water quality remains adequate going forward. Final monitoring (testing) requirements will depend on technical details addressed in project review.
- When I read through the information, there was no allocation made for maintenance costs after installation. Will this cause and additional surcharge for the customers? (OWSI) Any operational costs and maintenance costs would be factored into the rates.
- From the HDR PowerPoint presentation, there was a picture of four filtration tanks. Is their size in relation to the population of the community adequate for Port Ludlow? (HDR) The four tanks are each 36 inches in diameter allowing for 500 gallons of water per minute to be filtered. The tanks in the picture are slightly larger than what is needed but the next size down would be too small.
- From the HDR PowerPoint presentation, how tall are the tanks in the picture? (HDR) Each tank is 7 feet tall.
- Will both Service Zone A (North Bay) and Service Zone B (South Bay be treated? (OWSI) The entire system will be chlorinated. A & B service zones are interconnected. Zone A (North Bay) does have green sand filtration in place.
- What are the boundary lines between Service Zone A and B? (OWSI) Zone A is all of North Bay West of Oak Bay Road. Zone B is all of South Bay and North Bay East of Oak Bay Road. The new filtration system will Service Zone B.
- How old is Zone A system and how long do green sand filtration systems last? (OWSI) The Zone A system has been in operation since the late 60’s early 70’s and is in great shape. The tanks/vessels are in great shape. Sand replacement keeps the tanks in excellent working condition.
- What is the cost of replacing the green sand media used for the filtration? (OWSI) In the $10,000 to $20,000 range.
- I live in Zone A on Rainier Lane and we have experience black water and foul smells. (OWSI) Certain types of water will give off a sulfur smell. OWSI Vice President Greg Rae asked the person to call him and set up an appointment to look at his system.
- Do you anticipate any changes in the water (additional challenges other than manganese and arsenic)? (HDR) Water does not change much from year to year. No drastic changes are anticipated. The proposed filtration system will remove the manganese and arsenic.
- You (OWSI) have about 2 years before the new system is in operation, in the meantime what is your plan to address the coliform issue? (OWSI) We will continue to flush the system and chlorinate the way we have been doing all along.
- This project is going to take two years. Is there a way to accelerate the project? What would the costs be? (HDR) The project could be accelerated, but there are challenges. We must consider all elements of the project – construction company schedules, weather, equipment requirements. We do not recommend accelerating the two-year timeline.
- We are already paying a surcharge for a well that was found to be faulty. Why do we have to pay an additional charge? (OWSI) The faulty well surcharge was paid off in 2017. The addition surcharge which you see on your current bill is to cover the cost of the investigation by OWSI into the geoduck issue raised by the DNR. We spent money to reduce the initial fee by the State. The savings was significant.
- How was the 30% – 70% figure determined? (WUTC) The figure was determined by going by the PUC regulations on surcharge ratios. The minimum is 30% but they (Utilities Commission) would accept 40% or 60% or any amount above 30%
- You (OWSI) plan to start collecting money for this project in April of this year. Is that money going into a special account to be used only for this project and is PLA going to be putting their 30% into a reserve account as well? (WUTC) All funds from the customer surcharge will be placed into a special account but there is no requirement for PLA to contribute at the same time. (PLA) When funds are spent, 70% will come from the special account and PLA will pay 30% from its own funds.
- So, the 70% comes out of the reserve account? Are you (OWSI) planning to draw down the amount from the loan — how does the loan work? (OWSI) Not sure how this type of loan works. We will be requesting the loan amount this summer.
- We’re being asked to pay in April for benefits not realized for 2 years. To be equitable, they (PLA/OWSI) should be paying the same as the customers into a reserve account to be sure the funds are there. Is there a mandate that the 30% should be placed in a reserve account? (WUTC)
- How do we appeal that there is no requirement for OWSI to put their share into a reserve account? (WUTC) The Utilities Commission would be the body to make that decision. Their next meeting is April 11th to be held in Olympia. You can call in or attend meeting. There are 20 call-in lines and you can ask questions at that time.
- OWSI is a private business and we don’t know much about them. When I look at 5 years of filings regarding the statement of operations of PLA and their revenues compared to expenses, they appear to make a great deal of profit for a utility. (WUTC) You’d have to check with PLA.
- The WUTC does not have detailed PLA financial information, but you do have a public filing from PLA who owns OWSI. (PLA) We are not discussing PLA tonight.
- The Annual Report filed with the WUTC says they take in $1.8 million and their expenses are $900,000. These figures need to be looked at. With only 5 employees this seems out of line. What percent of PLA’s total income is going to expenses? (WUTC) We don’t have that information.
- Could the Utilities Commission put the project on hold to give the customers more time to discuss this issue? (WUTC) Although it is possible for the Commission to delay a decision it is not their normal practice.