Water rate meeting to be held in Livingston

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 11, 2013 

— The city of Livingston will host a utility rates stakeholder meeting today to discuss future water plans, including the removal of contaminants from the city’s water wells.

Other topics scheduled for discussion include the city’s water system needs, water availability and funding sources, according to the meeting agenda.

The City Council last month approved a $1.8 million contract with a Manteca-based company, Conco West, to install a contaminant filtration system in one of its water wells.

The well, located on North Main Street near the Foster Farms facility, was chosen because water drawn from it contains high levels of TCP contamination in groundwater, according to Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra.

Often used in the production of pesticides, TCP is a man-made chemical that can cause cancer, kidney failure and tumors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Samra said the city plans to install treatment devices in all eight of its existing wells, and some wells might be linked if they are close together.

“One thing everyone is focused on right now is what it takes to clean our current water supply,” Samra said. “We want to make sure we’re doing this right and getting input from the public.”

The funding for the filtration system comes from a $9.3 million settlement the city won in a lawsuit against two chemical companies – Dow Chemical and Shell – in 2011.

Livingston City Manager Jose Ramirez said the meeting will outline outstanding issues with each well, and progress on the next steps.

“We’re going to look at updating the residents on where we’re at with each of the wells,” Ramirez said. “We’ll provide a status update on each individual well to let folks know what contaminant is being removed.”

Ramirez said the city will soon discuss raising rates for water. The city hired Hansford Economic Consulting of Truckee to provide utility rate studies and assist with other processes relating to possible rate increases.

Catherine Hansford, owner of the consulting business, said Monday that she’s in the process of completing a rate analysis and presenting the options to city staff this week. The city expects to present those options to the public within the next month, according to Ramirez. “We’ll be waiting for the rate consultant to finalize her cost projections and then we’ll start talking about rate increases,” Ramirez said.

Any possible water rate increase will need approval by the City Council. Plans won’t be developed until the consultant’s study is done, officials said.

Livingston residents pay $9.90 a month for 35,000 gallons of water, according to Samra, who said it’s one of the “cheapest rates” in the state. “There’s no doubt that we have to adjust our water rates; we know that,” Samra said.

According to a July 2013 bank report, the city faced a substantial negative cash balance in its four enterprise funds: a deficit of more than $1 million in water, $327,000 in domestic wastewater, $1.3 million in industrial wastewater and $425,000 in sanitation.

The utility rates stakeholder meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the City Hall, 1416 C Street.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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