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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow COVE SEES WATER BILLS SOAR

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COVE SEES WATER BILLS SOAR

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

COVE — As water bills begin to arrive in Cove mailboxes for January, the pinch on pocketbooks gets tighter even before the water gets cleaner.

For Cove residents, the jump to $47.90 per month for basic water and sewer service isn't going to be a surprise.

Cove residents aren't alone, though, in seeing water and sewer rates rise. La Grande's went up a couple of years ago. North Powder's rates will increase Feb. 1.

In Cove, informational flyers explaining the city's plans for a new well, the funding that will allow for a 1 percent loan from the state Safe Drinking Water revolving loan fund to the city to pay for the project, and the required water rate increase were sent to water users in late October and November.

"I've had some questions," from city residents, said Donna Lewis, Cove's clerk/recorder. She's been able to sit and talk to those with questions, and help them understand both the need for the new well, and the increase in water rates.

Brad Baird, an engineer with Anderson Perry & Associates, has been working with Cove for several years, trying to track the source of turbidity in the water that Cove residents notice, most often in the spring after heavy runoff.

Normal testing of the city's well, Baird said, kept showing "that there really isn't anything wrong," he said.

But because of residents' concerns, and the obvious visual problems with the water that left bathtubs and sinks filled with grayish-brown water, the city and Anderson and Perry did additional testing.

The additional testing "showed problems" only when the turbidity in the water increased, Baird said. And seeing the results, state authorities required the city to fix the water system.

During 2002, "we did a temporary fix up there" at the well site, Baird explained, that held the well water for a longer time, allowing it to settle more before going into the water distribution system.

Through the testing process, the temporary fix, and now during the planning for a new city well, Baird said the state's water and health divisions have been "fully aware and involved."

But, despite all the testing, and numerous local beliefs, "the source of the turbidity has never been determined," Baird said.

Cove's current 600-foot well, Baird said, is drawing water from under a layer of basalt. Despite various tests that haven't shown conclusive results, there appears to be some form of connection between the well and Mill Creek.

This became clear in June and September of 2001, Baird said, when micro-evaluations were done on the well water. Baird said that there were several

indicators present in the water of ground water mixing with the well water deep within the earth.

"Cove bit the bullet and got a water study done and put together a master water plan," Baird said, complimenting the community on its preparation.

With the plan and the water test results, the city was able to get the 1 percent loan without the city residents voting their approval. But the city government was required to raise their water rates to cover the cost of the loan.

Baird also noted that getting the loan from the Safe Drinking Water fund isn't a bond, and Cove's city charter doesn't require citizens to vote in this situation.

With the funding for a new well nearly in place, the city is working to finalize the site of a new well.

The city government and the engineering firm are looking at a new well site a little above the Love and Haefer roads area, Lewis said, and the city has voted to proceed with working out the purchase or lease of the site.

With a well site finalized, Baird estimated that the new well could be dug and hooked into the city's existing water distribution system in about a year and a half.

With a new city water source in place and working, Baird said the existing well would become the back-up well for the city, when the water isn't turbid.

As the engineering firm is working out the details, Baird said Cove residents shouldn't notice the work, except for areas that may have water shut off for short periods as connections are made from the new well to the existing pipelines.

Considering what Cove residents will be getting, and what they will be paying, Baird thinks the water problems will be solved and the solution will put the community in an enviable position in the future.

"They took it to the next level with the tests," Baird said, remembering how the city pursued the turbidity problem.

And looking ahead at what should be the solution, he said, "it's a heck of a deal."

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