Most Columbia residents should never notice the expansion of their water delivery services. Two homeowners, however, will literally see the expansion in their back yards.
Columbia is expanding the McBaine Water Treatment Plant and adding a 21,600-foot water main. These measures are the result of a $28.3 million bond issue approved by voters on Nov. 4, 2003.
The additions will fall mostly on city and county land; however, the water main will cross the MKT Trail and two private properties: Hobo Hill Farm and Giant Oak Farm.
Dan Dasho, director of Columbia’s Water and Light Department, said that his department is doing everything possible to minimize disturbances to the private property and the MKT Trail.
“We’ll have to remove some trees so they may be disturbed for a while, but the disturbance goes away fairly quickly,” he said.
The water main construction is expected to last three or four months.
While a construction time of a few months and the removal of some trees sounds relatively minor, it is a worrisome topic for the owner of Hobo Hill Farm, Venessa Hughes. The owners of Giant Oak Farm declined to comment.
“Every bit of it means a lot to me,” Hughes said of her family farm.
Hughes said that the department has been helpful and understanding about the situation. However, it is frustrating to know that she really has no choice.
The process for acquiring land is twofold. The landowner is first offered compensation for a portion of the land, or easement, which is needed. If the landowner refuses, the city can condemn it and take that portion under imminent domain. Dasho said that the Water and Light Department tries to avoid using imminent domain.
“It benefits so much of the population, so we are trying to cooperate,” Hughes said. “They have tried to work with me and have given me a lot of input.”
But in many ways, that cooperation is only trying to make the best of a bad situation, she said.
Hughes also worries about the effects of the water main after it is installed.
“Am I going to have to worry about trespassers?” she said. “Will there be people coming out to check the water line? You just don’t know what it brings.”
The Water and Light Department is building the water main to maintain the supply of available water. Although Columbia is not over the plant’s limit, it is getting close.
“We’ve come close in the past four years to the existing capacity of the plant,” Dasho said.
Construction bids are expected to come in soon, Dasho said. Construction should start in the fall.
“This will give us more flexibility,” said Jon Betz, the plant superintendent at McBaine. “In the years to come we’ll be able to accommodate Columbia’s growth.”
Dasho estimated that the expansion will supply the city until at least 2020.
After the expansion, McBaine will be able to handle 8 million more gallons each day, making it a 32-million-gallon-a-day plant.
Dasho said that adding another water main also gives the city more security.
“Only having one connection is a risky situation,” he said.
Dasho said the line had been punctured in the past, almost forcing the city to turn off the water supply. He hopes to avoid the possibility of such a problem with two water mains.