Searching for best Beeville water fix: Committee did not receive expert advice
Oct 08, 2013 | 233 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Earlier this year, the City Council appointed a citizens committee to build consensus on solving Beeville’s looming water shortage. Those meetings became acrimonious with the committee essentially breaking into two sides.

In an attempt to allow each side to present concise cases for their methods – a reverse osmosis plant or tapping the existing Chase Field well – Jessy Garza and Tom Healey answered for the RO proposal while Tom Beasley and John Galloway answered for the Chase well side. In the final question, we allowed each side to respond to the other, and we appreciate their gracious consent to respond to our questions. Below is the response from John Galloway and Tom Beasley:

After meaningful thought, we do not believe it would be helpful or even possible to respond in any sort of meaningful manner to the questions contained in your e-mail of Sept. 20, 2013.

The problem is the questions are based upon assumptions which are not supported by the facts or available information. For example, the first question is concerned with the “proposal you back.” Because the water committee did not receive any meaningful new information, or even new insight to existing information, the committee did not review, develop or distill data to the point where it acquired sufficient integrity that could fairly be referred to as a “proposal.”

This point is further established by your follow-up questions exploring details which should have been included as part of a fully developed proposal, if such a proposal had, in fact, been formulated.

You ask, “How much water can the community expect on a daily basis?” While the study committee was comprised of persons of diverse backgrounds, experience and perspectives, in our view no one, and we repeat, no one who served on the committee had the experience, expertise, training or qualifications to independently evaluate that question or many of the other key issues which came up for discussion.

It is important to understand that reverse osmosis plants and their related operational procedures and requirements represent a developing technology which is unfamiliar to most folks. There are few such facilities in Texas, and as best we can determine, none of the existing plants were constructed under circumstances and conditions which apply to Beeville.

The water study committee did not seek or urge the city to seek the sort of independent, highly-qualified expertise which most folks would want for themselves in dealing with such technical matters.

Consequently, the committee did not independently develop, nor was it presented, verifiable third-party information about the costs and requirements of any plan, including maintenance or operation fees, whether for 20 years, less than 20 years or more than 20 years.

Similarly, no independent information was presented or developed with respect to expansion costs. The key word here is “independent.” Revisiting the Norris-Leal proposal for RO facilities was neither new nor independent, especially when part of that presentation included a sales pitch seeking to enter into a business arrangement with the city. The committee also received “information” generated or re-packaged by a few of the committee members, but ultimately, none of that data was independent, nor was it assembled or filtered by persons having the sort of qualifications which this community deserves.

We believe Beeville needs its own independent expert whose only loyalty is to the City of Beeville. That expert should be highly-qualified and experienced, and his or her overriding interest should be to find the best quality, most reliable alternative water sources which this community can afford.

That search may very well include a reverse-osmosis plant or desalination facility. We are not opposed to that concept, but we are convinced that the city needs an honest, unvarnished assessment of the costs. The RO option should be examined in the context of the other reasonable options, including groundwater sources which do not require RO treatment. While advances in RO technology and its associated costs have clearly occurred, over-emphasis of that technology could make water difficult to afford for many residents.

The references in your questions to the “other side” and the “opposition” overly simplify the discussions which occurred within the water study committee. Those concepts also suggest that the participants, including me, possessed a level of expertise and command of the subject matter which simply did not exist.

The water study committee has come and gone, and we still face the need for alternatives. Ultimately, the only entity having jurisdiction of this situation was and is the City Council, so trying to comparison shop phantom, competing proposals will not advance the interests of our community.

Instead, we urge the City Council to retain its own expert, preferably an open-minded hydrologist with expertise in groundwater development, including RO treatment of brackish water. Additionally, any such expert should be familiar with the various programs, options and resources available through the Texas Water Development Board and other state agencies.

Beeville is not alone in the struggle for reliable water alternatives. The entire state is in the grips of an extended drought, so we face competition for this precious resource. Let’s get the best help we can find!

John Galloway

Tom Beasley
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