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Archive for Sunday, June 30, 1996

PLANNING PAYS OFF FOR ONE COUNTY DISTRICT

June 30, 1996

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One Douglas County district has been a leader in meeting demand for rural water.

In building their own water treatment plant, two southern Douglas County rural water districts would be following the path taken 13 years ago by Rural Water District 3, in the northwest corner of the county.

Art Worthington, who retired last year as RWD 3's longtime general manager, said the boards that managed his district during the 1970s took action before the demand for water meters maxed out supply.

Although the Tri District Water Facility wasn't built and on line until March 1983, the intake for the plant, which is on the northwest side of Clinton Lake, was installed in 1978, when the reservoir was under construction.

``We've always had a board that was interested in serving and providing water,'' Worthington said.

That meant, he said, that board members stayed out of debates over what effect a larger water supply might have on rural development in the district, which is west of Stull and Lecompton.

``Some people don't want any more building, and we told them that's not our problem,'' Worthington said. ``Some people want a lot more building, and we told them that's not our problem, either. We just tried to make the water available, and we done good.''

Worthington said that when RWD 3 joined with districts from Shawnee and Osage counties to build the plant, the Douglas County district had come close on two occasions to not being able to meet demand for water. The district, which had a small, old plant and a hookup to the city of Topeka, was serving 600 customers when the new plant opened 13 years ago.

Today, RWD 3 serves 1,350 customers; Shawnee County RWD 8 has nearly 3,000, including the city of Tecumseh; and Osage County RWD 5 has about 1,000 more.

With a capacity of 2.25 million gallons per day, the Tri-District plant is similar in size to the one proposed by RWDs 4 and 5 in southern Douglas County. However, when the Tri District plant was built, it was set up to handle twice that capacity with the addition of more filters. Worthington said plans for that expansion are in the works.

Construction of the Tri District plant, including the cost of land and installation of the intake and transmission lines, ran about $5 million.

The plant now has five operators and a maintenance technician. Chuck Lawson, an operator who has been at the plant since it opened, said fears that a rural water district can't take on such a sophisticated project are unfounded.

Basic water quality testing is done on site, but more complicated tests are contracted out. The plant is so mechanized that it will telephone the operator on call to report a problem in the middle of the night.

``A couple of rural water districts together can operate something like this," Lawson said. "It's not a problem.''

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