After 15 months of purchasing Shawnee's water — at a cost of about $1 million — the city of Tecumseh began pumping and treating its own water from Tecumseh Lake Monday and it should begin flowing from the taps around T-town by the end of the week.
For now, Tecumseh residents and businesses will continue to pay the monthly Shawnee water rates that have been in place since last year. The city council is expected to further discuss the water rate issue in August.
Tecumseh City Manager Jimmy Stokes said crews started flowing Tecumseh Lake water into the treatment plant at about 12:10 p.m. Monday.
"By the end of the week, we'll be drinking Tecumseh Lake water again instead of Shawnee water," Stokes told the city council Monday night.
Since March 2012, Tecumseh has been purchasing Shawnee water from the Pottawatomie County Development Authority, which became necessary when the drought nearly dried up Tecumseh Lake.
But with recent rainfall, including torrential rains in May, Tecumseh Lake filled back up and city officials planned to start treating and using that water by July 1.
"We're happy the city manager was able to turn on the tap — we're using our water again," Mayor Eddy Parker announced at the council meeting. "That will be a good thing."
Stokes said it will take a few days for all the treated water currently in towers, about 350,000 gallons of it, plus all the water in the lines around town, to be used up before the Tecumseh Lake water makes its way to customer's homes and businesses. Some areas of town may notice changes before others, he added.
"It'll be between 3-4 days before it's blended in," Stokes said.
When that happens, residents could notice a different odor or taste in the water they receive because of the way it is treated.
Tecumseh has always used chlorine to clean its water, Stokes said, while the Shawnee water that had been coming from PCDA is treated with chloramines, which is a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, he said. Both treatments serve as disinfects for the water.
The city manager said he didn't notice a change in the water when the city switched from Tecumseh to PCDA water last year, so many may not notice a difference. Right now, Stokes said the city of Tecumseh is using about 700,000 gallons of water each day.
Stokes, who on Monday night asked the city council to leave water rates at the current levels, said the city has spent $931,000 to purchase water over the past 15 months. Stokes said he expects the final bill for Shawnee's water to be about $100,000 for the water that was used until Monday's switchover.
Page 2 of 2 - "I'd like to leave it…we need to recoup funds," Stokes told the council, adding he wasn't asking to raise current rates, just leave intact the Shawnee rates that have been in place for about 15 months.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Linda Praytor said they voted for that as a temporary increase, although discussion indicated the difference is about $5.44 per month for the average user. The average customer, using about 4,000 gallons per month, is currently paying $28.28 per month, Stokes said.
Praytor said she wanted to see figures and costs and Ward 1 Councilor Linda Farris said it would be nice to "know how long temporary is."
By a vote, the current Shawnee rates were extended until the August meeting, when the council is expected to look more in-depth at figures.
Stokes, who said the city has paid out much more for the water they've purchased versus bills sent out to city customers for their water use, said the city lost money while purchasing Shawnee's water.
To help further ensure the future of the city's water needs, Tecumseh is also working toward securing its 15 percent share of water from Wes Watkins Reservoir in McLoud.
The city is currently in the process of building a new raw water line from the reservoir to Tecumseh, as well as putting in a new water treatment plant.
Watch for updates.