City of Milford explores funding for water treatment facility

Water quality ‘becoming a public health issue’


Continuous complaints about discolored water and high levels of contaminants have prompted the City of Milford to explore federal funding for water treatment.

The city has begun the steps to secure funding for a water treatment facility that, in conjunction with the city’s current water main replacement project, would mitigate several issues with its water supply – something the funding request said is becoming a “public health issue.”

The city council passed a resolution April 4 allowing the city to apply for a federal Community Project Funding grant or forgivable loan which could provide $2.5 million of the estimated $3.4 million needed to build the treatment plant.

The city would be required to provide the other 20% of the money, which could be obtained through a federal or state revolving fund loan.

Mayor Patrick Kelley said he submitted a funding request form to Rep. Mike Flood’s office as Flood requested communities share information about their biggest needs.

“(We’re) looking at how we provide better water quality to our community,” Kelley said. “Our water quality is not where we want it to be.”

The request form said the project is important “because the water quality in the City of Milford is becoming a public health issue.”

It referenced a December 2021 water study by JEO Consulting Group, which “determined the water quality in multiple wells exceed the MCL (maximum contaminant level) and SMCL (secondary maximum contaminant level) set by the EPA. When these values are exceeded, iron, manganese, and nitrates may begin to cause problems in the drinking water and distribution system.”

The request form included a statement that the City of Milford has received numerous complaints about the discoloration and odor of drinking water.

“This discoloration and odor stems from the high levels of iron and manganese in the water system,” it said. “The City of Milford’s community has advocated for a change and is in support of installing a new water treatment facility.”

Terry Meier of JEO said the application does not obligate the city to build the plant if funding isn’t granted.

“A year ago, the EPA made it (manganese) an emerging contaminant. They’re just throwing money at that type of project,” Meier said.

Council member Mike Roth asked about the cost to operate the plant once it is built.

Kelley said he reached out to Utica, a smaller community that runs its own water treatment plant, to get an estimate.

Utica treats for manganese and iron, with two operators holding Grade III water licenses from the State of Nebraska.

Milford would treat for the same two contaminants.

In a follow-up email after the meeting, Kelley shared that Utica spent roughly $26,000 on chemicals and $28,000 on utility costs to run the plant last year. That did not include labor costs for the operators.

Kelley said the funding request would need to make its way through an appropriations committee and pass the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to make it into the 2024 federal budget.

“This is just a very, very, very first step going down this road,” Kelley said. “That 80% relief could be a huge burden off the shoulders of our community members.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nitrates are converted to nitrites once ingested into the body. This can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, especially in infants and young children, causing shortness of breath and blueness of the skin. Exposure over a long period of time can cause further health concerns.

Though iron and manganese are considered nutritionally essential in small amounts, the EPA states that prolonged exposure to high levels of manganese may cause problems with the nervous system, lethargy, tremors, psychological disturbances and respiratory problems. High iron in water can cause discoloration and staining.