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SW Water pipeline finished, hook-up pushed to 2015

September 05, 2014


By BRYCE MARTIN | Pioneer Editor |

Rhame residents will have to wait until next year before the city gets its hook-up to Southwest Water.

Despite its tumultuous journey to secure a connection to Southwest Water Authority and the construction of miles of pipeline finished, the city of Rhame faces yet another obstacle before its brown drinking water can turn clear.

Residents were scheduled to begin receiving Southwest Water through their pipes last month, but a recent project delay on behalf of the Dickinson-based water company has forced the city to wait until next year to turn on its connection, according to Rhame City Auditor Margie Russ.

Russ explained that engineers working on the project did not order a meter vault on time, which was a necessary component to regulate the flow of Southwest Water into the city’s water tower. She said Southwest Water also did not order a booster, to boost the amount of water delivered to the city’s pipes, to be placed at the merging of the city and Southwest Water pipeline connection in Griffin.

“They dropped the ball,” Russ said of Southwest Water Authority. “I’ve never gotten a reason from them why they didn’t get it done.”

Mary Massad, CEO of Southwest Water, did not return a message left by the Pioneer prior to this article going to print.

Adding to those delays, Russ said when the water from the new connection begins flowing through the city’s old pipes, it would cause leaks to erupt because the fresh water essentially “cleans” sediment from the old pipes. The existing city pipes are corroded by buildup from the city’s hard water, which said seems to be the only thing holding many of the old pipes together, Russ said.

“We don’t want a leak in November or December, when the ground is frozen, so we thought we better wait to the spring to get it started,” she explained.

The city council approved a motion to put off turning on the Southwest Water connection until next spring, as they received information from Scranton, Mott and New England, which faced the same situation when turning on their connections to Southwest Water’s supply.

With the pipes remaining the property of the city, Rhame bears full responsibility for maintenance and repairs of the pipelines. But, as Russ explained, no additional funds have been accounted for by the city to fix the aging pipes.

To obtain those necessary funds for maintenance, Russ said the city would have to increase its water charges.

Currently, the city charges $20 for the first 2,000 gallons of water and $2 for the next 1,000 gallons.

Under Southwest Water, however, the price changes to $3.60 per 1,000 gallons. Rhame bills out approximately 500,000 gallons of water per month, so the total charge increases by $1,800 for the city monthly.

“With this increase in cost, the city of Rhame may need to look into a price increase for residents,” Russ said. “I think most [residents] know the rates are going to be higher.”