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Columbia water treatment plant overdue for upgrades


Columbia's water treatment plant was built in 1970 and while it's expanded since then, it has not been upgraded.

Columbia Water and Light has proposed a $24 million upgrade to the plant that would replace much of the major equipment. However, residents are concerned a lack of updates to Columbia's water treatment facility could lead to major issues down the road.

Shawn Carrico, an engineer with Columbia Water and Light, said some equipment in the plant is getting more expensive to operate than it would be to replace.

"It's just getting to the end of its useful life and it's time to replace a few things, and so we're anxious to get that going and make it more reliable," Carrico said. "We're at a point where the cost of operating exceeds replacement. Then just modernization, there are some efficiency gains to be had with new equipment stuff."

Julie Ryan and Marie Brown founded Como Safe Water Coalition to put pressure on Columbia city officials to hold their water treatment to a higher standard. The pair say the water treatment plant has been allowed to decay after years of neglect.

"Six years ago ... 43% of the plant's assets were already zero to 10 years past their useful life," Ryan said at the Aug. 15 Columbia City Council meeting, referencing a consultant's report.

At that Aug. 15 council meeting, Water and Light presented its plan to upgrade the plant. The utility wants to update all of the equipment to be uniform and current.

Only First Ward Councilwoman Pat Fowler voted against the proposal.

"I'm not in favor of moving forward. I take these concerns from the public very seriously," Fowler said.

Columbia Water and Light and HDR, the consultant working on the plant upgrade, are completing their design project. A spokesperson said construction is expected to begin next summer.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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