Clovis News

Settlement helps Clovis cover water plant costs

Clovis and its water treatment plant contractors have reached an agreement that will pay for equipment to be replaced in its water-filtration plant -- and avoid a lawsuit.

Five of seven water-filtering racks that will cost $782,276 to replace will be paid for and installed by the three companies involved, according to the settlement.

The city paid to replace two of seven racks that did not provide as much water as expected.

The Leonard and Bullard avenues plant was supposed to produce 15 million gallons of drinking water daily, but after replacing two racks last year, the city could not exceed 11 million gallons per day, said Mike Leonardo, Clovis public utilities director.

The $26 million plant has only briefly reached its capacity since opening in 2004, city officials said.

City officials were considering a lawsuit against the contractors -- Pall Corp., which manufactures the filtering equipment; Kruger Inc., a water treatment technology and equipment supplier; and Black & Veatch, which oversaw plant construction.

But the legal haggling is not over. Other issues are still being negotiated, Leonardo said.

He said he could not disclose those issues because they may wind up as the subject of a separate lawsuit.

In January, Clovis water rates jumped 20%. A second rate increase of 15% will go into effect in July, followed by a 15% increase in 2011 and a 5% increase in 2012.

The increases are because fewer homes are being built, so the plant's bond costs are being spread among fewer customers.

Leonardo said the settlement did nothing to offset rate increases. If the city had had to bear the costs of replacing all the racks, more rate hikes might have been needed.

But a favorable outcome to the city on all the issues could reduce further rate increases, Leonardo said.

When the city is not using its water plant, it has to rely on individual city wells, and this reduces ground water-supplies, he said.

Water for the plant comes from the Kings River. It is filtered through long tubes with more than 6,000 hairlike fibers that pull out contaminants. The water is then disinfected before going to customers.

Last year, the city pumped about 2.6 billion gallons of water through the water plant, said Lisa Koehn, the city's assistant public utilities director.

In 2009, Clovis pumped 6.2 billion gallons from city wells, down 15% from 2003, the year before the water plant began operating. The water draw has decreased, even though the city's population has grown since 2003 from 76,000 to 95,000.