The issue of water quality usually comes up during the rare occasions when residents notice an unusual smell of the water. "No one has been able to tell us why it has that smell nor can they tell what causes it," said Tuscumbia mayor Wade Gann. "They have all assured us it's safe, but the thing is, no one wants to drink it during those times."
Help is on the way in the form of $1 million from the federal government. The money is being allocated through the energy and water appropriation bill. "This is a big shot in the arm for us," Gann said. "I constantly heard complaints about drinking water during the campaign (for mayor)," Gann said. "This has been a problem for a long time, and we sincerely appreciate this help. This money will go a long way toward correcting the situation."
Tuscumbia Utilities director David Thornton said Cramer and his staff remained updated on the drinking water problem. Getting the help was not a small accomplishment.
"They are helping us provide the best quality drinking water we can for our residents," Thornton said. "We have some projects that should really help."
Tuscumbia must come up with $450,000 in matching money to obtain the appropriation. Gann said he hopes most of the money can be raised through private sources.
Thornton said the water's smell has not been a problem in Tuscumbia for several months. He said the problem occurs most often during periods of little or no rain. "You could put a glass of water on the counter for a while and the smell would go away," Gann said. "We were told that the smell occurred once the chlorine being used to treat the water actually came in contact with the water, but no one could tell us why."
Thornton said the city barely meets new standards for water quality. He said turbidity limits - the amount of solids in the water - have been dropped in recent years. "Our water is not unsafe and we're in compliance, but we've got some needs that must be addressed in order to meet the new standards," he said. "We're having a hard time complying with our antiquated infrastructure." The city's filter plant was built in the early 1950s.
Thornton said the city is in the process of replacing all four filters and redoing its filter bed. The project is expected to cost $350,000.
He said several valves at the filter plant must also be replaced at a cost of about $60,000.
Another project on the board involves aerating the water with the fountains at a local park, a process that will clean the water before it goes to the water plant for treatment. The city also hopes to clean up the bottom of the spring. Thornton said there is up to 5 feet of mud and silk at the bottom of the spring, which is Tuscumbia's water source.
Thornton said the long-term solution for Tuscumbia's water needs is to tie into the Tennessee River, which he estimated would cost about $3 million.
There have been discussions with another town about building a joint water plant, which would cost about $6 million. The project could be a part of a consolidation effort between the cities that has been debated since early this year. Thornton said the same intakes the other town uses could be used to bring river water to Tuscumbia. "Their plant was built in the '40s, so they need an update as well," Thornton said. "Based on conversations between the cities, this would be one of the first things we would want to work on together."