The Fenton City Council has decided to explore options for better-quality water.
The council on Monday approved to go through a well-screening process to locate the best potential well site.
Councilman and former Fenton Public Works Director Les Bland expressed his concerns that while Phase 1 is relatively inexpensive, the next phases could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"This is something that needs to be done," Bland said. "But I don't know if it's the right timing."
Water plant supervisor Stephen Guy said that compared with other areas, Fenton’s water has a high level of hardness, which means it has high mineral content. Fenton’s water is 530 for hardness, while Holly’s level is 360 and Howell’s is 300. Even after treatment, Fenton water has a higher level of noncarbonate hardness (60-75 parts per million) than water from these other communities (60 noncarbonate hardness for Holly's water, and zero for Howell's).
"It's hard water, but it's good water," Bland said.
Guy said better water quality would be a risk-aversion tool for future cost spikes for sodium hydroxide, the chemical the city uses to treat its hard water. The chemical costs $1.55 per gallon now, but it once tripled to $4.50 per gallon when ethanol plants started using a lot of it and increased demand. The Public Works Department spends about $76,500 a year on chemicals to treat the water, which meets all criteria with the state, Director Dan Czarnecki said.
Many Fenton residents have voiced their opinions of Fenton's water on the Fenton Patch Facebook page.
Lorri Melynchek posted, "It's expensive and tastes awful. It tastes so strongly of chlorine and other chemicals..."
Chris McLaughlin said, "On days that my water doesn't smell like chlorine I either get a fishy smell or a petroleum smell. The price is outrageous and just about the time the price could come down we will need to spend more for infrastructure or new wells."
Councilwoman Pat Lockwood said the council should look into other options on behalf of the residents.
"We need to try and do what is best for the residents," she said. "If we can find an opportunity for deeper wells, that might be a start."
Councilman Ben Smith said the council shouldn't worry about future costs at the moment.
"Until we started Phase 1, we’ll never know if we can go to Phase 2," he said. "It's not going to be a quick fix."
Councilman Michael Piacentini was the lone member voting against the resolution, saying, "It's a significant cost when it's a study and not a need item."
There is a small well at in Fenton where water hardness is very low, which could have potential. It’s behind the restrooms and other buildings at the park.
AMEC would examine resources Fenton already has, coming up with three possible sites in the city for drilling holes and finding out what the water quality is, said Mark Sweatman, Michigan regional manager for AMEC. The work is expected to take two to four months, he added.
The second part of AMEC’s work, depending on how deeply the council wants to investigate, could cost $20,000 to $500,000. The upper end of the scale for Task 2 includes well drilling, which can cost $200,000 to $500,000, depending on how deep it goes, Sweatman said.