Roy council approves first phase to address water issues


The Roy City Council voted unanimously to accept and use more than $600,000 in grants and encumbered funds to address the city’s contaminated source water at its meeting, Monday, July 8.

Councilors made the decision after requesting and receiving additional information regarding the use of the funds.

John Hnatishin, utility manager for the City’s engineering firm Skillings, told the council that it hired a hydrogeologist to conduct groundwater investigations, analysis and water rights negotiations with the Washington state Department of Ecology (DOE). Skillings will immediately begin a project report for the treatment plan before presenting it to state agencies to review in two to three months.

Skillings revealed to the council during its June 24 special meeting that the shallower of Roy’s two wells, referred to as Well #1, was found in a February test to be contaminated with per/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above the approved state action level (SAL) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant levels (MCL).

The firm will use $242,500 in grant funds from the Department of Commerce and $300,000 from the state Legislature, as well as $77,869 in federal funding left over from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, to help pay for the project’s first phase. The resolution the council was asked to approve authorized the City to accept the $242,500 in grants and allocate the $300,000 from the Legislature.

The firm proposed in June that the City and the firm work with the DOE to drill a new well at the site of the city’s deeper well, referred to as Well #2, to establish a well field. As high levels of iron and manganese were found in the water of Well #2, the firm will coordinate with the DOE to move water rights from the PFAS-affected well, Well #1, to the newly drilled well site and to design and construct an iron and manganese treatment plant at the Well #2 site.

“Our team members are moving forward on the source side, and we’re moving forward on the treatment side. We’re all going forward together on the two components,” Hnatishin told the council on Monday. “We’ve had some time to refine our strategies, and this scope of work is the quickest pathway forward to action.”

As per request from the City Council, Hnatishin agreed to provide councilors and the City of Roy with a monthly progress update the first week of each month on how the projects are going. He told the council that a project report is required if the firm wants to do any sort of water treatment on the site, and the length of time that state agencies may take to review the report is unknown.

Hnatishin added that the $242,500 grant will cover the preliminary engineering and the scope of work, as well as delivering the project report that will move the firm into the construction documentation phase, which includes a full-site design for the treatment plant.

Skillings will coordinate with City staff to select a driller for the project. Hnatishin told the council that he “heard recently” that drilling can cost more than $250 per foot, and the groundwater is down 450 feet.

Roy Mayor Kimber Ivy told the council that she has set up meetings with Rep. Andrew Barkis, Rep. J.T. Wilcox and Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland regarding the water issues, and she said Pierce County is willing to offer letters of support.

“Thank you to Skillings for being willing to step in and help explain this to our representatives why this is such an emergent situation,” Ivy said.

Hnatishin said Skillings has reached out to the DOE and the Washington state Department of Health to request they prioritize reviewing the project report once it is finished. He added that the scope of work of the first phase will cost $70,000, and the hydrogeologist will cost $150,000, but the hydrogeologist’s scope of work is “not yet completed” but would be a component of the final scope of work for the first phase of the project.

City of Roy Public Works Director William Starks Jr. later informed the council that the department encountered issues with its reservoir monitoring system last week.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it basically looks like it had a voltage shot through it and burnt it out. Luckily, it wasn’t on a weekend, so we didn’t just run out of water in the middle of the night, and we were able to start running it manually,” Starks said. “We replaced a piece and it looked like it was operating initially until it wasn’t dropping at all.”

Starks added that the department began filling Well #2 to overflow “because it’s our only way of monitoring the system” before turning it off for eight hours. The well was temporarily operational again before it started running “uncommanded” multiple times, he said, and the department put it on pause for three days. He said that he hopes that the system will begin to operate correctly again after a couple of parts are replaced.

In other City business, the council appointed Matt Ivy, Angela Rexroad, Shannon Faria and Jeri Carrano-Setzer to the Roy Historical Commission after interviewing three of the applicants and hearing testimony from city staff on the fourth. The council also voted unanimously to uphold its current city code requirements regarding the authorized use of fireworks within the city. The code states that, “No person shall use or explode any fireworks within the city except from 12 noon on June 28 to 11 p.m. on July 5 of any year. No fireworks shall be discharged between the hours of 11 p.m. and 9 a.m., except that fireworks may be discharged from 11 p.m. on December 31 until 1 a.m. January 1 of the subsequent year.”