The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

June 13, 2013

City, water works troubles water under the bridge



After flooding washed fertilizer into Iowa's rivers, water works has had to blend river water with Ottumwa Reservoir water to battle the Des Moines River's high nitrate levels. Now, the Ottumwa Reservoir is getting low.

"So just last week we started running Black Lake water in with river water to try to extend our water supply because we don't know how long high nitrates are going to continue," he said. "But a few years from now that won't be an option for us. It's a concern that we won't have that option in the future."

Overall, Heffernan said the issues "got blown out of proportion" last year.

"We have been working with the city on a lot of things, and we will continue that," he said. "I think things are running pretty smooth right now."

City Administrator Joe Helfenberger agreed, saying the two entities now work cohesively.

"We have not had the need for as frequent meetings as we used to; they're more for informational purposes now," he said.

Today, water works and the city's public works department collaborate on street reconstruction projects whenever possible.

"Water works identified their blocks with the most water main breaks ... and we're trying to channel more money toward getting a whole block at a time reconstructed," Helfenberger said.

Water works operates autonomously, with Heffernan receiving direction from his board of trustees, which consists of five members: Skip Stevens, Teri Messerschmitt, Pete Rich, Barb Allison and Clive Parcell.

While the two entities operate independently, Helfenberger said there is now more cooperation and communication between water works and city staff.

"As we look at pursuing an improved ISO rating ... the cooperation between the city and water works is going to be critical to getting that [Class 3]," he said.

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