The Clinton City Council held a special meeting last week to consider plans for cleaning up the city’s water.

The council heard from Schneider Electric Energy Solutions and ended up agreeing unanimously to proceed with a feasibility study by the firm. If the city continues to the next step, an investment grade audit will be done and the cost of the feasibility study will be rolled into the final price. If the city doesn’t continue with Schneider, the first study can cost the city up to $15,000, the council agreed.

The Clinton Water and Sewer Department has been operating at a loss for several year. After problems with the system over the past years, the Arkansas Department of Health in February 2011 gave the department two years to improve water quality.

The department has received a $1.4 million grant to help pay for clarifiers. Department Manager Isaac Keeling and Mayor Roger Rorie began looking at clarifiers, first round ones, then square ones because of space limitations at the treatment plant site. Schneider has recommended a third option on clarifiers, one that is 50 times smaller than the others, and is called Actiflo.

At the special meeting Jan. 24, David Smith and Steven Packard of Schneider outlined what they see as the most important fixes the water system needs. The priority is improving water quality, they said, followed by stemming the water loss the department experiences, and then enhancing performance and operations.

The department had a water loss of 61 percent in 2011. The national standard is 14 percent at a well-run facility, Smith said.

Keeling noted that much water is lost in backwashing operations. Currently, he said, filters are being backwashed every three hours as turbidity in Greers Ferry Lake continues.

“All we’re doing right now is keeping our head above water,” he said. In less than two weeks the department spent $21,000 on chemicals, Keeling said.

Smith told the council that Schneider will give the city its “list of options and you’re going to tell us what you want to do.”

The Actiflo clarifier system is an operational cost, while replacing customers’ meters for a more accurate account of usage and reducing water loss are revenues, Packard said.

City Councilman Jason Lynch voiced his concern about Actiflo. “If we install it tomorrow is a new version - Actiflow II - going to come out Monday?”

Smith assured the council that the technology will be good for many years to come.

The feasibility study should be completed within 30 days.