The city’s lime sludge at the city water plant has reached critical levels, and those in charge say something needs to be done now.
The city council voted 5-3 last night to authorize the spending of $30,000 of the city’s emergency fund to remove a portion of the lime sludge that would buy the city about a year, according to city Chief Water Plant Operator Bill Kidd. Kidd said the city’s sludge could fall into further violation any day now because levels have reached a spilling over point.
City Administrator Rick Childers told the council that the city is already in violation, according to the agreement the city has with the Department of Natural Resources for a pile of lime sludge that the city has collected.
Kidd said the last time the city removed any sludge was 10 years ago. City Wastewater Director C.E. Goodall said the city probably has 25 to 30 years of lime sludge accumulation. Goodall said Kidd has been telling city officials for years that a problem was just around the corner.
“Bill has been saying this for not days not months, but for years,” Goodall said. “He’s been saying we’re going to have to address it someday. We’re at that day. We’re either going to use this reserve fund to pay a fine, or we’re going to use it to take care of the problem.”
Goodall went on to say it is not exactly fair to put Kidd under the pressure of DNR, and said it is a bad reflection on him personally.
Councilpersons Jason Berning, Melissa Miller and Dave Powell voted against the authorization.
Miller said she wants to look at a long-term solution and called for a special meeting.
“I need more than five minutes to look things over,” Miller said. “I just want to make sure this goes well.”
Berning said he wanted to only look at long-term solutions. He said he understands the immediate need for attention, but also had concerns whether or not the city could do it legally.
“I know we need to fix it fast, but I’m not ready to act fast,” Berning said. “I’m ready to act with a long term solution in mind.”
Kidd said, to complicate the situation DNR has handed down new and stricter regulations. He said the city is already in violation and cannot risk getting further behind. Kidd said he has been skating around the DNR tests, but will not be able to anymore. He said a report and testing are due to DNR on Jan. 28.
“What I’m afraid is going to happen is we’re going to get violations on top of violations,” Kidd told the council. “I’ve been very selective when I do the testing. I’ve done it that way for years.”
Childers echoed Kidd’s thoughts and said that DNR has a close eye on Richmond.
“That’s what happens when you put things off,” he said.
Mayor Lance Green told council members that he understands that they want to find the right solution, but at some point they also have to listen to the people they hire to do the job. Green said Kidd and Childers have worked through all of these problems and are now presenting a solution.
“(Kidd) deals with it everyday,” Green said. “He’s been working on a possible solution looking at different scenarios, different methods to fund. Rick works on it everyday. At some point you need to understand that the experts have already done that, and this is their solution.”
Kidd said one company he spoke to said they could remove the sludge in a timely manner.