By PAMELA CODY
Special to the PRESS
Water quality issues were again the topic of discussion at a regular meeting of the Laguna Madre Water District Wednesday evening.
District Engineer Charles Ortiz delivered a discouraging progress report about the ongoing substandard water quality reports that have been a continuing problem for the LMWD. “We have two that came in with acceptable levels, but two others are still showing levels above the allowable amounts in the water supply, so we’ll have to issue another public notice about the water quality.”
Ortiz also spoke of ongoing talks about raw water service to Port Isabel and an update on the feasibility study for a proposed water reclamation facility. “We’ve been talking to the PI city manager, but they’re concerned about raw water service. We want them to convert their irrigation system to raw water, but they’re hesitant about the cost of the conversion, even though it would save them approximately $7,000 a year*,” Ortiz said.
Director Rick Wells noted, “They’d be saving money in the long run, but the problem is they’re short on cash.” About the feasibility study, Ortiz stated that the necessary paperwork has been submitted and the facility is on track for approval. “We’re in the final review of the necessary reports – once that’s done, we’ll be the third city in the state to qualify for a reclamation facility and be eligible to receive a 25 percent grant under Title 16 for the construction of the facility.” He stated that the District completed the basis for the design, and is working with the Port Isabel – San Benito Navigation District (PISBND) regarding concerns they have about some details of the project.
Other topics discussed concerned various equipment issues that need immediate attention and other ongoing projects. One of the critical problems is with two transfer pumps, with one needing to be replaced at a cost of $15,000, and another that has vibration issues and will undoubtedly require repair. Director of Operations Victor Valdez updated the board on other work that has been completed. “We swapped out seven meters that were broken, and the wastewater line in Laguna Vista has been completed, as well as manhole resurfacing, so we’re good to go.” Keplinger commented on those projects, saying, “We need to confirm with the Laguna Vista city manager and make sure there are no other problems before signing off on that.” Valdez also reported that a blower on one of their trucks needs to be replaced, even though it is only two and a half years old. Keplinger suggested checking with other water districts to see if they’re experiencing similar problems, and to consider looking at alternate brands than the one previously purchased.
In matters of money, Director of Finance Sanjuana Garcia reported the external yearly audit, being conducted by the firm Long & Chilton, was in the process of being scheduled, as the LMWD is nearing the end of the fiscal year. The board then moved to approve amendments to the departmental budget, with Garcia saying it was a necessity because, “Pretty much based on the revenue we’ve got, we’re trying to eliminate any negative numbers.”
Secretary Martin Cantu, Jr. questioned Garcia regarding the legality of the changes to the budget, to which she countered, “We’re not removing money, just moving the funds around so there are no negative numbers.” The board passed amendments to the 2014-2015 budget. Director Wells confirmed before the motion was carried that he “looked through the report and didn’t see anything weird.”
At the beginning of the meeting, General Manager Carlos Galvan reported that the personnel policy needs to be updated regarding mandatory training for LMWD employees, in order to comply with state requirements.
Speaking of a trip to thr Texas Desalination Conference, he said, “Basically, we’re in the same predicament of the drought in the 1950’s – we don’t have enough water to supply the RGV. Hopefully, in the future we can utilize this information to improve our water usage.” Galvan concluded by showing the board a placard the Water District received from the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce commemorating their 24-year relationship with the LMWD. Keplinger recommended framing the placard and displaying it in the district’s office.
*Correction: The original printed version of this article stated a savings of $7,000 per month. It has been changed to reflect the correct estimate of $7,000 per year.
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