Three options for changes in Le Mars water management plan were offered at a public meeting April 3. The next meeting is April 10.
The first option was to do nothing, to change nothing.
City Administrator and Engineer Scott Langel and Terry Lutz, engineer for McClure Engineering, told about 200 people there were two advantages to keeping the current water system.
These were minimal treatment and lowest water rates of the three plans.
The disadvantages of doing nothing, they said, were continued problems with iron and manganese in the water (rusty, red water), the high cost of maintaining water fixtures affected by the rust and that it is minimal treatment.
Le Mars has been looking for ways to improve water quality for many years, they indicated, and doing nothing does not improve the quality.
The second option they offered was removal of iron and manganese. This option's advantages would be to remove "red water" problems, improve taste and odor and stabilize chlorine content.
Disadvantage would be higher water rates and that it does not reduce hardness.
The third option considered, the one the study recommends and the engineers seem to favor, was a hardness reduction plan. It was also the option that generated the most questions and most negative comments from the audience.
The hardness reduction plan would not generate "soft" water by definition although it would be much closer to "soft." "Soft" water by numerical definition has 0 to 3.5 grains of hardness per gallon of water. The recommendation is to reduce Le Mars' water hardness to 6 grains of hardness per gallon. Hard water is measured at 7 grains; very hard water has 10.5 grains of hardness per gallon and Le Mars' water has 38 grains of hardness per gallon.
Promoters say the advantages of the third option are: removing red water problems, reducing hardness, offering the best longterm water quality, significant cost savings to customers, the potential to be a regional supplier to the rural area and increased water supply options.
The disadvantage they say is higher capital and operational costs which lead to higher water rates. This option would require an $11 million treatment plant.
However, the engineers insist the higher water bill rate is actually a lesser cost because the increased water rates are offset by savings in other costs.
The difference, they say is in costs for energy, plumbing, soap use and maintenance of plumbing fixtures and water softeners. They maintain that a customer who uses a home softener, and those who don't, will spend more per month on overall water costs if Le Mars' water stays as hard as it is now.