East Carbon council requests legal review of culinary water contracts
|Newly elected East Carbon Councilmember Andy Urbanik joins in the city's discussion concerning culinary water contracts at Tuesday's meeting. |
East Carbon officials took formal action concerning investigation into the usage of the city's jointly owned reservoir during Tuesday's council meeting.
The councilmembers passed a motion Jan. 22 to allow city attorney Jeremy Humes to investigate the municipalitiy's water contracts with Sunnyside and the Sunnyside Co-Generation power plant.
Water rights to the reservoir are shared between East Carbon, Sunnyside and the co-generation plant.
The motion was made after East Carbon resident David Fryer approached the council concerning what he felt was the unfair usage of the local water supply.
"Several issues have been brought to my attention lately," said Fryer. "Jake Oil has been forced to shut down their drilling operation because of how close they are to our city's watershed land. They tried to bypass county permitting altogether because they had state permits."
Councilmember Terry Harrison pointed out that the county commission was favoring a full investigation into the areas where Jake Oil had drilled and was considering leveling a bond against the company for any potential contamination to the towns water supply.
Fryer also pointed out that it was his understanding Sunnyside city had sold water to Jake Oil in the past and was planning to continue doing so in the future.
"They are drilling that close to our watershed and Sunnyside is selling them water. I can't understand why they would do that," said Fryer. "I feel that they are selling too much water and would like to see a board formed that would oversee commercial water sales made from our reservoir."
"Water restrictions were a possibility for this year and I don't think it is right that I have to let my yard and landscaping die when water is being sold for profit commercially," added Fryer
East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine agreed with Fryer on the issue, stating that there is language in the city's water contract stipulating that the primary responsibility of use is for the residents.
"Culinary water should not be used in a cooling tower and Sunnyside city is profiting off of water treatment when they are only paying 33 percent of the costs for operation and maintenance of the community's water treatment facility," said LaFontaine.
Sunnyside representatives Doug Parsons and Polly Sanderson took exception to some of the comments made at the East Carbon meeting.
"We spoke to our attorney this morning," said Sanderson via telephone the day after the meeting. "And we are well within our rights to sell this water. Also, the amount of water we have sold to Jake Oil and Questar gas is very minimal."
According to Sanderson, Sunnyside sold 210,000 gallons of water to Jake Oil and approximately 700,000 gallons to Questar, netting the city a profit of just over $2,200.
"And as for the power plant, they own 10 percent of the reservoir's water. They are only paying us for the treatment of the water," continued Sanderson. "I don't understand their problem with our commercial water sales when they are selling to both ECDC and Westridge mine in amounts that exceed what we are selling."
Sunnyside Councilmember Doug Parsons also stated that Sunnyside was acting within the city's rights to continue selling excess water.
"Every gallon of the water that is sold is recorded," said Parsons. "And if East Carbon City can provide documentation that we are using more water, then we will pay for our share like we always have."
"I don't remember them ever coming to us with documentation and asking for an increase in payment," added Parsons.
According to LaFontaine, there are months when Sunnyside reportedly uses double the water of East Carbon and still pays only one-third of the treatment costs.
"The operation and maintenance costs on the water treatment plant are substantial," said the East Carbon mayor. "And then there is the matter of us have to constantly re-certify our city employees to be able to run the plant. That cost added to the chemicals required to clean the water really add up."
Before Fryer finished addressing the East Carbon council, the resident brought up one final issue regarding the city's reservoir.
"We were kicked off that property because, according to Penta Creek, we were trashing the property," said Fryer. "But have you seen what these oil and gas operations are doing? I have been up to these sights and let me tell you the workers on these projects have trashed their work sites."
In response to Fryer's comments, LaFontaine indicated that East Carbon City has approached the Penta Creek's attorney about re-opening the reservoir to the public.
East Carbon also has plans to increase the municipality's bility to effectively capture water from other sources near the reservior.
"The water that we have sold to industry in our area is vital to the economic growth of our community," concluded Sanderson. "What are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to shut down incoming industry because we are not willing to sell excess water?"