Those of us who live in Pierre are well acquainted with the city's less-than-pleasant tap water situation.
Indeed, there are more than a few Fort Pierre residents who'll cite Pierre's stinky, stain-inducing water as a key reason why they currently reside on the Missouri's western shore. Pierre water has an excess of manganese and iron, which stains fixtures, sidewalks, houses and anything else with which it comes into regular contact. The city's water also smells of sulfur. It's perfectly safe to drink according to state and federal regulators, it's just not aesthetically pleasing.
So it's a good thing that city leaders are, after several years, taking another serious look at building a treatment plant for the city's water. We are right to be asking our leaders to look for ways to de-stink our water.
The alternative we're being presented with, however, is another issue entirely. It's going to cost us $37 million to build a new treatment plant. That's a huge chunk of change and could end up costing the average resident an extra $32 a month or about $384 a year. That's a lot of money to fix an aesthetic problem. This cost will be especially burdensome to those among us who already are struggling to make ends meet.
Most of us will be able to adjust to the new expense. And the adjustment will be made easier because the costs will be phased in over time. This is a good thing but it doesn't change the fact that the older folks on fixed incomes and the folks who just don't make much money are going to struggle to foot this heftier bill. We can't forget that as we debate the treatment plant.
We need to ask ourselves if it's fair to ask folks who can least afford an extra $384 annual expense to help foot the bill for a problem that really isn't hurting anyone. After all, we don't have lead in our water. We have iron, manganese and an off-putting smell, all of which can be remedied with a water softener and a reverse osmosis filter, which are up to individual homeowners to buy.
Building a new water treatment plant isn't a bad idea. In fact, it may well be the best thing to do right now. Building such a facility isn't likely to get any cheaper over the years. But if we decide to build the thing, we need to recognize that some of us are going to be impacted more than others and we should take steps to make sure those folks aren't hurt by our collective desire for tap water that doesn't smell like fermented eggs.