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Mount Jackson moves forward on water project

By Alex Bridges

Mount Jackson embarked on a project that officials say should improve water quality and help the town prepare for the future.

Town Council recently approved a contract with Richmond-based firm Kreye Blankenship Inc. to design and build a facility that would treat the water coming from three of its four municipal wells. Council's action comes about two years after a consultant's report recommended the town take this course.

Town Manager Kevin Fauber said Thursday the firm estimates the project would take about 20 weeks to design the project. The town has not yet received an estimate on when the firm would complete the construction, Fauber said.

"We would have to coordinate construction so that it wouldn't interfere with our system," Fauber said.

The $787,000 project also aims to address problems seen in the water Mount Jackson draws from its municipal wells, Fauber said.

"I guess the main thrust of this project was looking to the future as the town continues to grow and develop," Fauber said. "Then, as part of the long-range planning, when they want to bring these wells online, then they were looking options of improving the water quality."

Mount Jackson may not need to raise water rates to help pay for the loan the town received that covers more than half of the project cost, Fauber said.

Mount Jackson provides drinking water to customers in town and Shenandoah County under a health department permit. The town brought two of its newer wells online in the past two years.

Testing of two of the three wells showed high levels of nitrates in the water, Fauber said. The project would allow the town to mix the water from the two wells and send it to the treatment facility. Tests on a third well near the town's reservoirs showed high levels of iron. The project also would connect this well to the water treatment facility to reduce iron levels, Fauber explained.

As Fauber explained, nitrate levels fluctuate. The town did not receive any warnings that would trigger a need to address water issues.

"There wasn't any mandate from the health department," Fauber said.

The town received funding from the Virginia Department of Health for the project -- a 30-year loan of $433,000 and a grant for $354,000, Fauber said.

The town in early December sought to create an on-call list of engineering and architectural firms officials could keep in mind as projects arise. The town advertised for proposals and received 14 submissions from firms. Town officials interviewed the firms and developed the list.

"It just happens that this water project was happening at the same time as the engineering services selection," Fauber said.

Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates prepared a preliminary report on two of the town's wells in late 2011. The report gives a history of the town's water system that, at the time, served approximately 894 residential and commercial users. The system produced an average of 10.5 million gallons per month or 347,260 gallons per day. At the time of the report, the town operated five wells with a total capacity of 650 gallons per day.

The report suggested that the town build a treatment facility to blend water from its two, largest-yielding wells during periods when one shows elevated nitrate levels. The report also suggested that the town leave open the option to upgrade the treatment facility and make it capable of removing nitrates for the two wells. Likewise, the upgrade should allow the facility to remove iron from the third well and to blend its water with the others.

The existing wells should meet the town's needs for water, Fauber said. The town's largest well pumps approximately 250 gallons per minute but could yield up to 354 gallons per minute.

"This would take us well into the future because with the existing wells that we have we still have room for growth," Fauber said.

The report states that the town anticipates expanding the system to serve undeveloped areas inside Mount Jackson, the existing industrial park and in the vicinity of Interstate 81 Exits 269 and 273.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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