Public discussion to be held on Scott County water district

Monday, August 23, 2004

BENTON, Mo. -- Nearly a year after Scott County commissioners started seriously discussing the possibility of a countywide water district, the public is invited to a meeting Tuesday where they will have a chance to ask questions and see the results of a feasibility study of such a project.

The study, conducted by Waters Engineering Inc. in Sikeston, Mo., looks at what type of water system is needed to serve all areas of the county and the costs involved.

According to Scott County economic developer Jim Schwaninger, forming a countywide public water district could possibly cost up to $18 million. He said a lot of the financial feasibility of the project depends on the amount of grant money the county could receive from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development division.

The water district's goal would be to provide everybody in Scott County with clean, safe water.

While most communities in Scott County are covered by water systems, unincorporated towns rely on personal wells, which could gather groundwater that has been contaminated by farm chemicals or septic tanks.

According to Waters Engineering Inc. president John Chittenden, about 3,700 residences in the county are connected to personal wells.

Schwaninger said the Kelly and Scott County Central school districts have their own water systems. "They have their own wells. If their systems go down, they're flat without water," he said.

In addition, the water systems that exist in some incorporated areas are up to 40 years old and need updating. Chittenden said it would be cheaper for these communities to join a county water district than to replace their own equipment.

Although an initial study has been completed, there are no plans yet to create a county water district, Schwaninger said. He described plans as being in "the 'what if' phase."

Chittenden will be present at the meeting to discuss a preliminary design for a water district that includes a major new treatment facility and connections with existing city water systems that would serve as backup water sources. Chittenden will also talk about the costs associated with the design and the benefits of creating a water district.

"The goal of this public meeting is to start to understand what the public interest will be," Chittenden said.

The monthly charge to residents depends on how many sign up to be a part of the district. Chittenden said he will provide a range of possible costs at Tuesday's meeting.

Scott County Health Department director Barry Cook will also be present at the meeting to discuss health concerns raised by not having a county water district.

The meeting will end with a question and answer session. Anyone with questions can send them ahead of time to Schwaninger by calling (573) 545-3549 or by e-mail at

335-6611, extension 182

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