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Terrytown continues search for water
June 13, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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As the Terrytown City Council works toward providing adequate potable water for its citizens, the process could turn into what Mayor Kent Greenwalt called “one big nightmare.”

In early 2012, one of Terrytown’s two remaining water wells was found to contain arsenic levels higher than federal regulations allowed. Consequently, it has to be shut down, leaving the town with only one source of water.

Terrytown has since been investigating its options, from building a treatment plant to finding a new water source to contracting with either Gering or Scottsbluff for water.

Minatare had faced a similar situation and contracted with Scottsbluff for its water. But they were informed by the North Platte Natural Resources District they couldn’t mitigate their water rights to Scottsbluff. That is, Scottsbluff had to purchase from Minatare the land that previously served as its well system.

The Terrytown council was updated on the engineering water report by Michael Olsen of M.C. Schaaf and Associates, which provides engineering services for the city.

“Whether we find a new well field or tie into another city, we’ll be impacting third party groundwater users like the irrigation districts,” Olsen said. “That means we have to go to the NRD and have them do a groundwater model and identify which districts are impacted.”

NRD has told Terrytown the soonest they would run any modeling data is the end of June. It’s also undetermined when results would be issued. But Terrytown would like to have a final report completed by the end of its fiscal year on Sept. 30.

“We’ve made it as clear as possible to NRD the City of Terrytown is in dire need of this study to be completed,” said City Engineer Jeff Wolfe. “We’ve done as much of the study as they can until the state completes its groundwater modeling study.”

Olsen added the easiest way to mitigate for increased pumping is to purchase some agriculture land and take it out of production, in effect making up for the water used by the city. Another way is to pay the affected irrigation districts for the water.

He said a municipality’s water use is a small impact compared to farming and would only require a few acres. The problem would be in finding such a small parcel for sale.

According to Wolfe, the city’s lone remaining well might not be able to pump sufficient water to meet the demand once the summer begins to heat up. In that event, the city can turn its other well back on in the short term, but will need to notify residents the arsenic levels exceed federal mandates.

Once Terrytown secures a new reliable water source, it plans to install water meters at all residences to bill for water usage. However, Mayor Greenwalt said that won’t happen until at least next year.
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