Seligman seeking water line easements

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

*8 City aims to take ownership of all its water lines

The city of Seligman has been actively working to update and improve its water system, and one of the challenges in accomplishing that goal is obtaining easements for privately-owned water lines.

Brian Nichols, Seligman city clerk, said in order to improve the water system for residents, the city must take ownership of all its water lines. According to Nichols, some water lines are privately-owned, but the city is still responsible for them.

"If something happens on a private line that feeds 30 lines down the line, [like] if it breaks, or if someone gets sick out there due to a problem with a line, the city is responsible," Nichols said. "We're already having to go out and repair lines that we had nothing to do with putting in."

The city plans to tackle the issue by starting with water lines along Farm Road 1070.

"We started on the 1070 line because it's a straight stretch of about 30 different properties we'd have to contact," Nichols said. "Of that 30, we have some complicated ones where we'd have to move the meters back. We had our city attorney work on the additional easements that are needed."

Nichols said with city ownership, Seligman will serve and maintain the lines, but to do so, it must obtain easements, which allow it a certain amount of feet around a meter or line to work.

"Problems are not just confined to 1070," Nichols said. "It's also happening to every single water line outside the city limits. The city doesn't have ownership of those lines, which is part of the problem.

"They're pretty much private water lines. The plan is to go through and obtain ownership of all the lines that feed it because ultimately we're responsible for water in those lines."

Nichols said the easements will give the city five feet on either side of a water line or meter to work, for a total of 10 feet.

"So if we need to come in with a piece of equipment to make repairs we can," he said. "It's no different than what the electric company does. They have a 15-foot easement.

"We also run into the issue of how certain water lines were put in. Some have 300-foot of line all the way to the front of their house, and the city certainly doesn't want to take on repairing that line if there was a break in the middle of it. So we're going to take the water meters back out to the main line as close as possible."

Nichols said the repairs would not cost property owners anything.

"All these changes and repairs would be done 100 percent free of charge to the customers, with the agreement that they give us access to the water main and water meter that runs along their property," he said. "If we're responsible for it, we need to actually own it."

Nichols said the city anticipates the changes may not make some residents happy, but the work is ultimately for the public's good and to protect and improve the city's water supply and water system.

"We're looking out for the public's well-being and safety," he said. "We want them to have clean, safe water. If a problem came up with a privately-owned line, it could affect many other residents also on that line. Someone could get sick with it being a private water line.

"If there are two chicken houses on a private line, you have that whole space in between. So, if there's a break in the line right after the first chicken house, it could contaminate the water."

Nichols said some residents are worried about growth, change and how it will affect them.

"They're worried that if we add too many people to a line, there won't be enough pressure, [or] worried that there won't be enough water for the chicken houses, or not enough for them," he said. "That's a main concern. Next to that would be the city moving water meters and taking that additional water line away. We didn't put those [private] water lines in, but ultimately, we're responsible for the water.

"If they're not going to sign the easements over to us and the meters, it could ultimately come to disconnecting water from their property. I'm pretty doubtful that will happen. We're just looking out for the best interests of the city and public safety. It's a mixture there."

Nichols said the city takes precautions to ensure the public has safe water, and it flushes the water lines every three months, checks fire hydrants, checks water pressure, and monthly, tests the water supply for contaminates.

"We send samples off to a lab monthly," Nichols said. "There's a contaminate report we have to publish in the paper. It lets the public know of contaminate levels, issues, or violations we've had. It lets us know acceptable amounts of iron and calcium in the water and what our levels are.

"We've scored excellent here and we're very thankful for that considering our geography."

Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources comes in once a year and asks to see each of the city's connections to ensure they have all the appropriate inspections done, and in February, the city updated its cross-connection ordinance that regulates back flow prevention of chemicals into the city water system. The ordinance applies to chicken houses, car washes, anyone with a fire suppression system and anyone with sprinkler systems that are hooked up to the city's water distribution system.

"We did this so we won't have to worry about contaminates coming back in," Nichols said.

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