Mineral Wells Area News

City Holds Meeting With Wholesale Water Leadership to Discuss Failing Hilltop Water Treatment Plant

City Holds Meeting With Wholesale Water Leadership to Discuss Failing Hilltop Water Treatment Plant
December 03
17:23 2022

By David Montgomery/City Government Specialist Photos By Amy Bearden

On Thursday, December 1st, the Mineral Wells City Council met in the gymnasium of The First Baptist Church with representatives and councils of their Wholesale Water Customers to discuss the next steps following an October citation by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that claimed a 13.3% deficiency on the production capacity of the water plant owned by Mineral Wells compared to its contractual obligations.

I think it’s important as well that the city takes responsibility. We know that the city has neglected closely managing current contracts, commitments, water storage, and the plants deterioration. We’ve also failed to ensure that all of our customers are in compliance with their contract obligations,” Mayor Regan Johnson told the group.

Representatives from the Seven Wholesale Water Entities Serviced By Mineral Wells Met with City Leaders to Discuss Recent TCEQ Citations and Notify Each Water Organization That the City Has to Not Only Build a New Water Treatment Plant ASAP, But They Need to Renegotiate The Contracts to Meet TCEQ Requirements

Wholesale leadership present for the meeting included Palo Pinto, Millsap, North Rural and Sturdivant Water Supply Corporation as well as the Santo and Parker County special utility district, although no one from the Parker County SUD was present, all other wholesalers were in attendance. The City of Graford governs the water utilities and were also in attendance.

The problem at hand is the Hilltop Water Treatment Plant that has seen its last legs and failing to produce what is required for its contracted customers. Serious issues with the Water Treatment Plant were highlighted during Winter Storm Uri as freezing temperatures hampered the 60-year-old facility and brought to light the reality of its age, revealing infrastructure and capacity issues.

Leaders Governing Local Water Supplies Around Mineral Wells And Palo Pinto County Met with City Leaders to Learn the State of the Water Infrastructure That Supplies Almost 50 Thousand People

“That plant has exceeded its lifecycle,” said Mineral Wells City Manager, Dean Sullivan, speaking to the gathered wholesale customers. “We all need a [new] plant. That plant needs to not only be able do what this one used to do 40 years ago when these original contracts were forged, but it also needs to support the future growth of this area.”

TCEQ sent a letter to the city in October alerting the city that the plant “failed to provide the minimum water system capacity production requirement for the retail service connections and contractual obligations.”

The system is running at 13.3% deficit according to data from the TCEQ that Sullivan presented to the room.

With a new plant as a long term goal, in order to gain compliance with TCEQ, the city’s contractual obligations must be at or below 7,999,200 Gallons Per Day, the maximum plant production capacity based upon a comprehensive compliance investigation conducted in August of this year by TCEQ.

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Sullivan presented a series of slides indicating water consumption each wholesale customer had been using compared to where the TCEQ says they must be for the city to remain compliant to the state’s regulations.

“We have a deficit to overcome,” continued Mr. Sullivan.

Another problem causing concern is the 41% increase in water usage over the last four years due to the growth in the area. Sullivan said the even if the plant was working at its full capacity, it could not meet the output required by all of the combined contracts the city has with its wholesale partners.

Board members of the Millsap Water Supply Corporation Appear to Examine Data from the City of Mineral Wells Presented to All of Their Wholesale Water Customers

“We all collectively have that deficit to try and work through,” said Sullivan. “Right now we need a plant that will support the future growth of the area.”

The cost of a new plant was not discussed but city leaders are working now to gather information to present to the wholesalers so they know what the project will ultimately look like for their end user customers.

The city presented the wholesale water board members with a new drafted contract template that would allow for uniformity of the agreements moving forward. They call for 30 year agreements with a 10 year extension option.

Renegotiations of wholesale contracts would change the maximum allowance of reach for wholesale customer as well as simplify and bring uniformity to the contracts. The new template indicates that a heavy fine of more than double the contracted rate could be charged if wholesale customers exceeded their allowable consumption.

“We do want to clarify that if you are a wholesale customer that does not wish to renew the current, unexpired contract that you have in place, we will continue to honor that contract in its fullest to the extent possible that we can,” said Mayor Johnson.

Image of slide “City of Mineral Wells: Water Commitments Final” presented to wholesale water customers. The seven wholesale customers are the City of Graford, Millsap WSC, North Rural WSC, Palo Pinto WSC, Parker County SUD, Santo SUD, and Sturdivant WSC.

The city has asked for feedback and input by the wholesale customers regarding the new contract templates by the end of December so that Sullivan can meet his deadline for a written response to the TCEQ.

TCEQ has given the City a Compliance Due Date of January 3, 2023 to have contractual obligations within the threshold TCEQ has set.

Sullivan asked TCEQ to be present at the meeting so customers could ask any questions but according to him, declined showing up because of an “ongoing investigation” into the city’s water operations.

Sullivan also told the audience that since the TCEQ’s August inspection of the Hilltop plant, new pump equipment had been installed allowing for improved operations and intends to ask them to come out and re-rate the plant for increased compliance.

Local State Representative Glenn Roger’s was also in the room to hear the discussions and acknowledged to MWAN that the condition of the water situation in Palo Pinto County is pretty serious.

HD60 State Representative Glenn Rogers speaking with the Manager of the Hilltop Water Treatment Plant. Rogers is organizing a tour for local leaders of MW wholesale water customers. Photo By Amy Bearden

Lawmakers reconvene soon in Austin and Rogers’s is hoping that with the surplus in last year’s State budget, they can possibly look for some funding solutions to help counties like Palo Pinto who are struggling with water supply infrastructure

Rogers is organizing a tour of the dilapidated water treatment facility for some 80 water board leaders to take a look at the plant and understand why there is need for action. He likened the current situation at the plant to be “duct taped repairs.”

This meeting casts a stark contrast to a meeting held in August with the Mineral Wells Water District highlighting the Turkey Peak Reservoir updates. The citation from TECQ puts pressure on the city to place the Water Treatment Plant as a higher priority and continues to place water as a major issues facing the area.

Mineral Wells Area News will continue to bring you updates as the situation continues to develop.

About the Author: David Montgomery is a Mineral Wells resident passionate about local politics. He wants to see transparency in government and foster community involvement. Married for over 12 years with 3 children, David works full time at a church where he leads a team of volunteers in utilizing technology to spread the gospel. His hobbies include craft coffee and BBQ.

Amy Bearden
Amy Bearden

Amy Bearden is the Publisher/Editor of Mineral Wells Area News and loves celebrating her favorite town by telling the stories of the people in the community. Amy has a passion for local sports, news and business development. She spent 10 years marketing a professional sports team and is now focused on growing the cultural wellness and creative arts space throughout the area. Amy has four kids, two dogs and a garden she cherishes, along with her yoga mat.

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