Ferriday water woes to end soon?

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2008

FERRIDAY — Work to fix Ferriday’s ailing water system could begin soon.

The Ferriday Town Council voted Tuesday to allow Mayor Glen McGlothin to execute a contract with Triton Company to address the systemic problems in the water system, which has been beleaguered by both structural and administrative problems.

Once the contract is executed, work can begin within 60 days.

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McGlothin told the Ferriday Rotary Club, where he was the guest speaker Thursday, that the contract will effect a 20-year municipal lease with Triton. The lease agreement will include replacing all of the town’s water meters, building new tanks at the water plant and building a 25-30-acre water retention pond.

Those moves are expected to improve both accounting and water quality problems.

In March, the state auditor’s office locked down the Ferriday town hall for several hours while they reviewed files to determine why the Ferriday water system was losing money, something it has done for several mayoral administrations.

Part of the way the Triton contract will help address the issues that led to that closure is to have water meters in place that actually work, McGlothin said.

In some places, users are being charged a flat rate, and in another place a meter says that a business only uses six gallons a month, he said.

“If you see people using water and the meter says they aren’t, you can figure that the meter is broken,” McGlothin said.

“It’s against the law to give away a public utility.”

The new meters will be computerized and will operate using a global positioning system, allowing for accurate and quick readings, he said.

With the new meters in place, the town will gain $300,000 in utilities income just by charging customers the correct amount, McGlothin said.

Another area the town is losing water in is the Red Gum water district, to which the town sells water.

The town would like to take over the district to control that loss, but that would depend on a vote by the water district’s directors, McGlothin said.

Once the town knows what the Red Gum district wants to do, the town can execute the contract with Triton, he said.

To improve water quality, which McGlothin said “has improved over the years by trial and error,” the ideal thing would be to drill wells and build a new water plant.

However, McGlothin said that wasn’t an option for the town right now “because no one will give us $5 million to do it.”

But something has to be done to repair the deteriorating water plant, which is starting to show wear after four years of little-to-no maintenance, McGlothin said.

“We are required by law to fix (the water plant), and the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Hospitals are riding us like a horse in the Kentucky Derby.”

Along with additional water storage that will be provided by the new tanks, water quality should improve because the retention pond will allow organic matter to fall for 38-40 hours before it enters the plant for treatment. The municipal water currently has high levels of organic matter because the plant pumps surface water directly from Lake Concordia for treatment. Not only will that improve water quality, but it will save money in chemical treatment costs as well, McGlothin said.

“Right now, the plant uses eight chemicals when the original plan was to use two,” he said.

Other municipalities that have agreements with Triton include Tallulah, Jonesboro and Shreveport.