MARYVILLE, Mo. — City officials are working with state agencies, private groups, area farmers and more to address the future of the city’s drinking water, including taking the first step towards building a new water treatment plant, City Manager Greg McDanel said in an update to the City Council on Monday.
Cyanobacteria counts at Mozingo Lake remain above the threshold for safe contact recommended by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, McDanel said during the meeting.
The situation remains largely unchanged since January, when cyanobacteria levels suddenly spiked at the lake. Warning signs remain posted discouraging physical contact with the untreated water, but drinking water remains safe, and the city continues to take testing samples of both treated and untreated water at an increased rate.
McDanel said the water treatment plant continues to use the maximum amount of chemical treatments to reduce taste and odor issues. During a tour earlier this month, officials at the plant said the treatments seem to have eliminated the aesthetic issues that have plagued large portions of the city’s water system for months.
Mayor Rachael Martin praised McDanel and city staff for their continued transparency with the public throughout the process.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and we’ll continue to put out (the correct information) as best we can … on what staff’s doing to continue to push this forward,” McDanel said. “But we’re looking at some long-term investments and some long-term solutions here.”
What shape those long-term solutions might take is starting to come into focus. During the planning process for this year’s budget, McDanel told the council that a new water treatment plant would probably need to be built in conjunction with the public water supply district within “the next couple of years.”
At Monday’s meeting, McDanel said he and Martin met with the Public Water Supply District No. 1 board last week to talk about such a project. In response, the water supply district board and the city have created a joint subcommittee to develop a recommendation for consideration by both bodies.
On the lake and source water management side, McDanel said the city is in discussions with Northwest Missouri State University about environmental chemistry classes assisting with additional testing of the lake water in order to determine what nutrients are present. Cyanobacteria are primarily caused by excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous, which usually finds its way to standing water through runoff from any number of sources including farms and sewer systems.
In Maryville’s case, the first step in mitigating the nutrient pollution is by finding out exactly what nutrients are present, and where they’re coming from. Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland said the city has already taken inventory of what it may be adding to the runoff by going through records of treatments to the golf course at Mozingo. Heiland said the city has kept meticulous records going back 20 years of treatments used, when and in what amounts, making the process much easier.
But primarily, finding the cause of the nutrient runoff means talking to farmers in the surrounding 12,000-acre watershed area.
“They are not the problem — I want to make sure that that’s clear — but everything is a source and a part of the solution, from the age of the lake, to temperatures, to runoff, to nutrient levels, to sedimentation,” McDanel said. “So everybody working in unison will help get this through.”
Heiland said two local farmers — who together own more than 600 acres in the watershed — have already made contact with the city to see what they can do to help. McDanel said the city plans to hold a stakeholder meeting with property owners in the area next month to discuss next steps and possible partnerships on potential landscape changes and other solutions.
McDanel and other city officials also discussed additional potential options moving forward on a conference call last week with the Nodaway County Soil and Conservation District, Missouri Rural Water Association, the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, and DNR. The various agencies were focused on different ways both long- and short-term to manage the cyanobacteria on the lake, including help creating an index of nutrients present in the lake, and providing access to state and federal grants that could help in the future.
“I’m really encouraged that all of these state agencies — and even a few fed agencies — are coming to the table to help, not to be punitive, but to really help and, I think, genuinely want us to get the situation taken care of,” said council member Tye Parsons. “There’s this concept out there that the government’s always the bad guy. Not necessarily. And this is a great example of that. This is our state agencies coming together to really give us a hand, so I’m appreciative of them and of staff for leading the charge here.”
McDanel said the conference call group will continue to meet quarterly, and the city will send representation to the Missouri Rural Water Association annual conference next month.