Essential water project opens door for Moroni to be proactive, mayor says

Map shows elements of $3.5 million Moroni water project, including a new well, a 2-mile pipeline and a new half-million-gallon water tank. The improvements are designed to enable the growing city to meet its culinary water needs for the next 20 years.

MORONI—After an incident about a year ago, when Moroni was forced to send water into homes that did not meet federal and state purity standards, the city had to do something, Mayor Paul Bailey said last week.

Then, the mayor said, since the city had no choice but to make changes to its water system, including increasing its water supply and water storage capacity, Moroni decided to be proactive.

The result is a $3.54 million water project, which was finalized Thursday, March 25, when the Moroni City Council approved measures to pay for it. With the project, the growing town should be set for the next 20 years in terms of culinary water. (See accompanying story on city council votes.)

    The project includes a well. a 500,000-gallon water tank, a 2-mile pipeline to carry water from the new well and an existing well to water tanks on a ridge on the north side of the city, an overflow pipeline, various pressure valves and a new computer system to monitor and control everything.

The incident in February2020, when the pump from one of two Moroni water wells went out, forcing the city to rely on a single well that had high nitrate levels, presented a “great reality” to the town, Collin Pace, a project manager for Sunrise Engineering said in an interview about a week before the city council meeting.

Moroni had been mixing water from its Well No. 2, drilled in the 1960s, which had high nitrates, with water from Well No. 3, a newer source. When water from the two wells was mixed, the water was well within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit for nitrates.

But when the only water flowing through water pipes in Moroni was from Well No. 2, the city had to warn residents that babies younger than six months and pregnant women must not drink the water. If they did, the city said, the babies could have shortness of breath, develop “blue-baby” syndrome or even die.

After correcting the problem, Moroni started taking steps to make sure it never happened again.

The city brought on Sunrise Engineering, which prepared a 50-page study looking at water rights the city owned, population projections, existing storage capacity, and whether Moroni should build a treatment plant to take nitrates out of water from Well No. 2 or drill a new well altogether.

It turned out that building treatment plant, and operating it around the clock, would be very expensive. The new well, tank and related piping “was the most feasible alternative,” Pace said.

Sunrise Engineering hired a geologist to look for a well site. Sunrise will oversee drilling of a test well north of the one-time Mud Boggs racetrack. The company has selected a final site in the same general area as the test site and fairly close to Well No. 3.

Currently, Well No. 2, the well producing the high-nitrate water, generates about 230 gallons per minute. Well No. 3 is producing up to 380 gallons per minute.

“We’re hoping to get around 400 gallons per minute” from the new well, said Trent Brown, a project manager for Sunrise and the company’s point person on many Moroni projects, who participated with Pace in the interview with the Messenger.

Robert Worley, a Sunrise vice president, who also joined in the interview, was more cautious. He said output would be similar to Well No. 3. “We won’t know ‘til we drill it,” he said. “You always hope for more.”

But even if output from a new well is about the same as Well No. 3, the new well will boost the city’s water supply by more than 35 percent.

With water system improvements, the “lower tank” east of 500 North in Moroni, which is about 50 years old, will be taken out of service. Replacing it will be a half-million-gallon tank as shown. The current “upper tank” will continue in service.

Once the new well is in, Brown said, the city will re-prioritize which wells it draws on. The water system will draw first from the new well and next from Well No. 3. Well No. 2, the high-nitrate well, will still be used, but will come on only at peak-demand times when the flow from the other two wells isn’t sufficient to keep water tanks at recommended levels.

If the city does draw on Well No. 2, the water from the well, once it flows into water tanks, will mix with water from the other two wells. Thus, the nitrate level in Moroni water will not only be far below the EPA limit, but with water from the new well added into the mix, should be even lower than it is now.

The second major piece of the water project is a new 500,000 (half-million) gallon water tank, which will go in east of 100 West and 500 North near two existing tanks.

Once the new tank is in, the city will be taking its so-called “lower tank” out of service. “I don’t want to give an age,” Brown said, “but it’s right near 50 years old.”

The two current tanks can store 780,000 gallons combined. Taking out the lower tank, and adding in the new half-million-gallon tank, Moroni will have 1.1 gallons of water storage, Brown said, an increase of about 30 percent.

That includes 180,000 gallons state law requires the city to keep on hand in the event of a major fire.

Then the computer system, officially called the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and located in a city shop southeast of city hall and northeast of Pitman Farms’ turkey processing plant, will turn off flow from wells to the tank until the water levels drop again.

The other major piece of the project is the pipeline. An eight-inch pipe will carry water from the new well to Well No. 3. From there, a 12-inch pipe will carry water from both wells along 100 South to 100 West.

That’s where the pipeline will turn a corner and go uphill, through the main residential section of town, to the site east of 500 North, where the existing tanks are now located and where the new tank will be added.

Brown said the pipeline “through the middle of town” will be the most disruptive aspect of project construction for residents.

There are a few other pieces to the project. In case a computer glitch or other malfunction causes water to continue flowing into tanks after they’re full, there will be an overflow pipeline that will carry the excess to the Moroni irrigation pond, the structure that feeds the city’s secondary irrigation system.

Currently, an overflow, if it happens, flows into a surface ditch, which then flows across private property, Worley, the Sunrise vice president, said. “They (Moroni) just need to upgrade the way they handle any overflow from the tanks. They don’t want to have it go across private property anymore.”

Other changes include installing one additional fire hydrant and replacing three pressure reducing valves that ensure that homes at different elevations all have water pressure within an adequate range.

As at present, after the project is finished, if repairs have to be made to the water distribution system in town, the maximum area in which water would need to be shut off is about one block, Brown said.

The project as a whole is being designed right now. Sunrise has prepared an environmental assessment, which has been approved by the state. Worley said Sunrise hopes to put the project out to bid in May.

There will be separate invitations to bid and separate contracts awarded to specialized contractors for the well, tank and other elements of the project.