(SALEM) - Ensuring Salem has a water supply that's high quality and more than adequate for future generations is one of Mayor David Bower's top priorities.
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, of the Leader-Democrat Editor reports, thus far in his second term, the city is seeking a $500,000 grant to rehab its five water tanks. Despite regulations that say tanks are to be cleaned every five years, city records indicate only two tanks have ever been cleaned and that was 15 years ago.
Plans for improving Lake Salinda are also moving forward as the city council recently approved borrowing at least $800,000 from the USDA at a rate of 2 percent interest for 40 years. The money will be used to remove vegetation and sediment from the lake. Built in 1947, Salinda originally encompassed 120 acres but is now only 66 acres.
The Salinda project will also include new filtration traps and remodeling the water treatment plant.
Plans to raise the lake's level by about five feet are also progressing.
Looking further down the road, the mayor is moving forward with a plan to explore groundwater for future use.
Stephen Tolliver of Aqua Utility Services, which manages the city's water plant, said the move nationally is away from surface water to groundwater. "It's naturally filtered and much less expensive," he said, explaining it can reduce costs by as much as two-thirds. It's also much, much healthier than surface water which requires chemicals to purify it. Tolliver said fluoride would be the only thing added to groundwater.
The mayor is working to establish preliminary rights to the aquifer system of the confluence of the White and Muscatatuck rivers in the northern part of the county.
Currently, the city is gathering proposals on drilling test wells to determine supply and quality. The city is also in discussions with East Washington Water Corporation, the city's largest water customer, about its potential interest in the project.
The mayor noted Campbellsburg, Corydon and Mitchell all currently utilize groundwater for their respective community water supplies.
Bower says increasing the city's water supply could be a boon economically on two fronts; first, most companies looking to locate in a community want to know about water supply, and second; the city could sell more water.
"A good part of economic development at some point is driven by the amount of water available," said Bower. If the city doesn't aggressively pursue tapping into the groundwater source, others will. "We have to retain control of our water rates, or we'll eventually be at someone else's mercy," he said. "We're not going to let that happen."
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