Improving Water Taste and Odor with Reverse Osmosis
Recent survey data and years of community input have made it clear that the majority of Pantego residents want to improve the quality of our drinking water while also maintaining an independent water system. To that end, the Council has issued the debt necessary to design and install reverse osmosis (RO) systems at the 303 and Lane well sites, which are expected to go live by August 2025.
What is an RO system and how does it work?
Though the addition of an RO system doesn’t change much in the process of water treatment, it can make significant improvements to the final product and provide another level of protection against traditional as well as emerging contaminant concerns such as prescription drugs. In fact, RO can even be used by ships to filter seawater into potable water (with the help of a little chlorine).
Just as the walls of cells act as membranes, allowing water to move through our bodies while limiting the movement of salts, a reverse osmosis (RO) system employs a thin film engineered to allow water molecules to pass through – leaving dissolved solids behind.
Once these systems are in use, water will be sourced and treated as usual. Then, before being released into water mains for delivery to homes and businesses, it will be forced through a semipermeable membrane with a pore size of approximately 0.0001 micron. This removes salts, metal ions, minerals, protozoa, bacteria, viruses, and organic molecules.
Are any other improvements underway?
Yes, Council has also approved tank mixers to keep the treatment chemicals in stored water more evenly mixed, an upgrade to our existing monitoring system, and a vacuum and flush truck to keep sewer lines moving. Preliminary steps have also begun toward adding a fifth well site and storage tank near the Police Station to increase system capacity and pressure.
In February of 2022, Council unanimously approved a Water Quality Taste and Odor Study and directed the Town Engineer to begin a cost study for the installation of RO systems at the Lane and 303 well sites. Surveys were sent to all residential water customers, of which 350 responded (about 40%). Overall, 56% voted to retain an independent water system (rather than purchase water from Arlington) — but 62% also desired improvements to the taste and odor.
Based on this citizen input, in the Spring of 2022, the Council made a commitment to improve Pantego water.
In May of that year, staff presented recommendations for the water and sewer systems – including the addition of RO systems to the Lane and 303 well sites. By December, plans were 90% complete and, in March, Council published a notice of intent to issue up to $18m in debt for system improvements.
In April and May 2023, staff provided Council with financial projections regarding the impact various debt levels were expected to have on property tax and the Infrastructure Fee (which is included on your monthly utility bill). Council asked for several scenarios for funding these capital improvements as well as comparisons to other jurisdictions’ tax and water rates. In May 2023, Council unanimously approved a debt issuance of $13.2m in Certificates of Obligation (CO) to fund the RO systems and other capital improvements to the water and sewer system.
In August, staff advertised the RO project, and a bid of $3.3m was accepted. Meetings are underway in preparation for construction, which is slated to begin in January 2024 and take 18 to 20 months. Now, the Council has turned its attention to determining the right tank sizing and design for a fifth well site near the Police Station.
Major Components of the Water System