The city of Craig paid about $9 million for a new, 12 million-gallons-a-day water plant, and officials want to make sure they got what they paid for.
There is concern that some new equipment may not work like it was designed. Most notably that includes three new raw water pumps, which push water taken from the Yampa River into the plant's treatment stations.
Two of the three already have been sent to Denver to be rebuilt - at a cost of $10,000 each - after running for only a short time. In those cases, the general contractor hired for the project, Cortez-based Southwest Contracting, paid for the repairs.
Recently, the third pump started making noise, and City Engineer Bill Earley said that pump will need to be rebuilt, too, though it's unclear who will pay for the fix.
The problem is that the pumps literally are shaking themselves apart, Earley said.
They use impellers to suck the raw water up from underneath the plant and move it into the beginning of the treatment cycle. Under most working conditions, however, there is not enough backpressure in the lines to keep the pump mechanisms stable.
To keep the pumps running for now, plant operators have partially closed a plug valve so the pumps push against greater pressure, which keeps the internal parts from moving around and damaging themselves.
Trouble is, Earley said, that's not how the plant was designed to run, and it uses a lot of energy that costs the city more money than the plant should.
Officials also worry that keeping the valve closed will prevent them from ever being able to run the plant at maximum capacity.
The new water plant was built with growth in mind. Craig does not use 12 million gallons of water a day right now, but it might in the next decade or so.
Earley said that when the city's needs get to that point, the plant will have to be able to operate at capacity or else officials may have to institute a mandatory water rationing program.
"We can run this plant at six or seven (million gallons a day), but we bought a 12 (million-gallon-a-day) plant, and we want to be certain we got what we paid for," Earley said.
The city decided to call a special meeting with the engineering firm that designed the plant to go over the details and possibly discuss whether the engineers or the city should be financially responsible.
The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 23.
Earley said that if a fix is needed - which is likely - the cost could range from about $30,000 to a few hundred thousand.
If the plant needs one or more new pumps, they could be around the same cost as the three already installed, which ran $50,000 each, not including shipping or installation.
A computer-operated system to control pump pressure could be cheaper or just as expensive, Earley added.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com