The winning bid for executing a new, citywide water softening system for Eureka appears to be a $2.3 million package from Martin General Contractors, LLC, Eureka Mayor Kevin Coffey told attendees of Thursday evening's Eureka Town Hall Meeting. The meeting, which drew about 65 attendees, was held at the Eureka Community Center.
Coffey said the bid from the engineering firm was expected to be reviewed Monday by Eureka's city engineer and possibly awarded as early as Tuesday. The contractors are headquartered in Eolia, MO.
One Town Hall attendee asked what city representatives had expected the cost to be and how the bid compared; Coffey said they had budgeted $2.15 million for the project.
"But this is an usual, custom project, so predicting the total cost was a bit like throwing at a dart board," Coffey said.
Once complete, city officials project the new softening system to add $10 per month to residents' water bills.
He said the new water softening system, once complete, would allow city staffers to open the newest well at the back of The Legends subdivision, which had been shut down due to high levels of radioactive materials. Coffey said the radioactivity measurements in that well were of the level that required notifiying residents, but that still could be used. "We decided to shut it down, though, pending our desire to install a new water softening system."
Water is considered "hard" if it contains a lot of calcium, magnesium or other minerals. Groundwater acquires these metals by dissolving them from surrounding soil and rock. Industry measures water hardness in terms of grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). A grain is defined as 64.8 milligrams of calcium carbonate. According to Water Quality Association indicators, if water tests at 1 GPG (17.1 mg/L) or less, then one has soft water. Water around 1 to 3.5 GPG (17.1-60 mg/L) occupies a gray zone between soft and slightly hard water and 3.5 to 7 GPG (60-120 mg/L) is moderately hard. Hard water is around 7 to 10.5 GPG (120 - 180 mg/L), and very hard water is above that measure.
Coffey said Eureka sits atop a large aquifer. "Most of the city is located downhill of the aquifer, where it's the deepest. Engineers tell us you have to get to the far eastern part of town to miss it."
Coffey said the aquifer is shared with the Pacific and Gray Summit areas. "They would go dry before us," he said.
Department of Natural Resource experts had to review and approve Eureka's water softener project. Coffey said the project is driven by the market's manufacturers, but is not expected to be a difficult installation. "Hookups should be easy," he said.
The project will provide three major tanks for Eureka. Coffey said Eureka's water would be expected to be softer than Pacific's current water supply.
"We're expecting to have average or above average soft water," he said. "Residents may want to keep their own softeners for a while and see what softness level they really prefer."
One Town Hall attendee asked if the new system would be sodium- or potassium-based. Coffey said potassium-based water softener systems are cost-prohibitive and would have increased residents' monthly bills to $30 or $40 rather than the expected $10 increment.
The resident expressed concern about personal sodium intake and its affect on lawns and gardens. Coffey said the new water supply would be monitored heavily and that residual sodium should be minimal.