A heated Great Bend City Council discussion on a long-running water quality dispute Tuesday night boiled over into verbal sparring and the storming out of one council member.
At issue was a complaint filed by David and Tiffany Nily, 907 Williams. Prior to the Aug. 17 council meeting, they had contacted Councilman Dana Dawson complaining their city-supplied water had been discolored and/or tainted for two years.
Dawson brought the matter up at that earlier meeting, presenting a sample of water given to him by the Nilys. “This is disgusting,” he said of the murky, yellow water in the jar.
He went on to chastise the Water Department and wondered why the problem had not been solved. If the Water Department was trying to fix the situation but couldn’t, the council should have been notified.
The council directed City Administrator Howard Partington to investigate the matter. Partington and Utility Superintendent Charles Suchy, both somewhat offended by the accusations they had not done anything, presented their report Tuesday.
Suchy said they had pulled the file on the residence which noted several complaints about water problems dating back to September 2013 with the most recent call in October 2014. Each time, someone visited and took water samples.
Over the years, Suchy said Water Division has flushed the Nily’s system, not billing them for the water used and giving them a break on their sewer rate. Now, the system is flushed monthly if needed.
So, “I was shocked to find out about a dirty water problem,” Suchy said Tuesday night, referring to the most recent complaint of rusty water. He went to the home himself and asked to take a sample of the water as it came into the house.
It was clear. This could mean there was a problem with the pipes in the house, but that is not the city’s fault.
The origin of the sample the Nilys brought in Aug. 17 is unclear. They have installed a whole-house filter system and it was speculated by city officials that the water they brought in had come from the filter, not the incoming line.
The Nilys said they have to drink and bathe in questionable water, and Tiffany said she operates a day care. The filter system was necessary.
Also, Suchy said, Great Bend Honda, to the north, and the homes to the south have not reported problems. In fact, samples taken in these locations were also clear.
Although the main line along 10th Street is steel, the pipes that bring the water to these houses are copper. Copper, Suchy said, doesn’t rust.
“We take this pretty seriously,” Partington said of water complaints. He said he believed the Nilys had a problem but doubted their claim that it was a city issue.
“These accusations are tough,” he said. The city staff has bent over backwards to help.
“I’m not happy,” Tiffany Nily said. She has discolored water in her sinks, toilet and tub.
Neither was David Nily who said the problem improved after the flushings, but felt they were getting to resolution.
They were not the only one’s upset.
At the onset of the discussion, the recording of Dawson’s Aug. 17 comments were played. “I feel the recording was a slap in the face. How dare I question city officials,” Dawson said in response.
Councilman Wayne Henneke took offense to Dawson’s comments. “I’m a little pissed right now,” he said.
He questioned why Dawson didn’t take the Nily’s concerns to city administrators instead of airing the dirty laundry in public. This only served to embarrass Suchy and his department.
At that, Dawson stood up and walked out of the meeting. “I’ve had enough tonight. This only solidifies what people think of this council doing things behind their backs,” he said.
After Dawson was gone, the council asked that the Nilys contact them the next time their water looked rusty so another sample could be taken. City administrators were also told that if there were special considerations requested by the Nilys, the matter would have to come before the council.
This talk also led to the broader issue of replacing water lines. The main priority would be replacing the current 10-inch steel line along 10th Street with a 12-inch plastic line.
There are other lines in the downtown area that also must be addressed, Partington said.
This works costs about $263 per foot. There may be a need for a bond issue to cover the expense, but this was an issue for another day, Partington said.