Surface water, including water from the Coeur d’Alene River, is potentially contaminating the well that serves 2,700 homes and businesses in Shoshone County.
That’s why voters in the Central Shoshone County Water District that serves Kellogg, Smelterville and Osburn will decide Tuesday whether to pass a $12 million bond to install a new water filtration system. The system would remove potentially harmful microbes that aren’t killed by the existing disinfectant system.
If the bond is approved, the monthly user fee of $30 would increase to between $47 to $65.
For two years, water district residents have been advised by the state Department of Environmental Quality to boil drinking water to prevent diarrhea and other illnesses.
Suzanne Scheidt, a DEQ analyst, said the department has received at least six complaints of gastrointestinal distress or diarrhea.
In 2005, the DEQ ordered the water district to have a filtration system operating by January 2009. If that doesn’t happen, the state could pursue enforcement and ultimately disapprove the water system, which would make it difficult for people to buy and sell homes in the district.
“The water system has to be approved or you can’t obtain mortgages,” Scheidt said.
She said the district has been performing engineering studies to determine the best filtration system. The district decided the bond was the best way to pay for the improvements, said Cindy Elfsten, the district’s office manager.
She added that the district always passes its water quality tests, even during seasonal floods when water from the North and South forks of the Coeur d’Alene River gets into the district’s Enaville well about a mile from Kingston.
Scheidt said that’s true, but that it’s difficult to test for surface water pathogens. That’s why the DEQ is mandating the filtration system.
The only polling place is at the water district office, 409 Main St., in Kellogg. The election hours are noon to 8 p.m.
Anyone with questions can call the district office at (208) 786-9141.