The city of Port St. Joe took another step in the direction of solving the riddle of discolored water Tuesday night.
City commissioners approved a proposal from Larry McClamma, supervisor of the surface water plant, to undertake a pilot study for a new treatment alternative.
McClamma is proposing to work with an engineer from the Florida Rural Water Association to begin pretreatment of the water with lime.
The hope is that introducing the lime will reduce the amount of manganese in the water.
A yearlong pilot study of the water performed by CDM Smith, the company that designed the water plant, and Virginia Tech University identified iron and manganese as the likely culprits for the chronic discoloration of water coming from the plant.
Iron, which was believed to a problem in turning water red from the outset once the new plant went online nearly four years ago, is being largely addressed through the replacement of aging, copper- and iron-based pipes in the distribution system.
Over the past 18 months, as pipes have been replaced in large swaths of the city, the number of red water complaints has declined.
Manganese turns the water black or the color of ice tea. Present treatment protocols have failed to fully address the level of the chemical in the water, in part due to the chemicals used.
By moving to lime for pretreatment, McClamma said, that chemical, ferric, would be reduced in addition to the lime helping to remove the manganese.
“This will improve the water quality and cut chemical costs,” McClamma said. “This will allow us to cut back on ferric which is putting more manganese in the water.”
The solution came out of the Virginia Tech study – which identified the manganese levels in the water and offered an array of potential treatment options – as well as consultation with Bay County, which also has a surface water plant and must address similar water discoloration issues.
Florida Rural Water also proposed lime pretreatment as an option.
McClamma worked in Bay County for eight years and his familiar with its treatment protocols and staff from Bay County was in Gulf County earlier this year to perform a small-sample pilot study of lime pretreatment.
“I know this works,” McClamma said. “And the way things are going we have to figure a way to save money on chemicals.”
With roughly 58 percent of the fiscal year gone, city financial officer Mike Lacour said, the water plant has already consumed some 70 percent of its budget for chemicals this year.
And if proven effective, whatever investment the city will make for lime pretreatment – purchase of the lime slurry and a holding tank – the city figures to recoup that expense in the long term through reduction in chemical costs.
“We should be able to save enough money that it will pay for itself,” said Mayor Mel Magidson.
Line replacement in North Port St. Joe
While heavy rains delayed the work the project to replace water lines in a large area of North Port St. Joe should be completed by mid- to late-June, said Clay Smallwood with Preble Rish Engineers.
Tie-ins should begin in the next two weeks he said and the switch over to the new distribution lines should quickly follow.
The city is also beginning the process of securing a Community Development Block Grant to complete line replacement in the neighborhood.