Brownwood native Janice Bezanson, executive director of a group called the Texas Conservation Alliance, loves the City of Brownwood's supplemental water treatment plant.
Or at least, Bezanson loves the concept of it.
City officials haven't yet decided whether to move forward with the plant, which, if constructed, will treat waste water to state drinking water standards. The treated water will become part of the city's drinking water supply and reduce the amount of water the city takes from Lake Brownwood by a third, city officials have said.
Bezanson visited Brownwood Wednesday and met with city officials to express her support of the idea. Bezanson also visited the Bulletin and said the project has the attention of water industry representatives throughout Texas.
The Dallas-based Texas Conservation Alliance, according to its website, consists of individuals and organizations with the mission of "protecting Texas’ rivers, forests, coastlines, wildlife, and other natural habitats."
The alliance is concerned with wildlife, water issues and habitat conservation issues, and has been involved in surface water development issues including reservoirs and other projects for 30 years, Bezanson said.
"The supplemental water treatment plant that's been designed for Brownwood is an absolutely fabulous project," Bezanson said. "It's on the tongues of everybody in the water industry in Texas.
"People are having seminars about it. It's really wonderfully designed. It's completely safe and it's using off-the-shelf proven technology in a slightly innovative way. … it will be absolutely, totally safe.
"Everybody knows about this. It comes up in conversations because this is the star project that's being considered in the state of Texas right now. It's being talked about by water resource professionals all over the state — big cities, small towns."
Bezanson is aware of the opposition Brownwood physician Dr. Chris Stephens has to the project. Stephens has spoken at several Brownwood City Council meetings, saying the idea of treating waste water to state drinking standards is neither safe nor cost-effective. Stephens has said the risk of contaminants getting through the treatment process and into the drinking water supply is too great.
When a photo of Bezanson was posted on the Bulletin's Facebook page Wednesday morning, the photo prompted a post stating "Of course she would support it. She is a water conservationist and SHE won't be drinking it!!"
"Absolutely I will drink the water from it," Bezanson said when asked to respond to the post.
Bezanson is also aware city officials are waiting to learn more about the Brown County Water Improvement District's idea of drilling four to six water wells that would pump ground water to the surface and reduce the demands on Lake Brownwood. Drilling is about to begin on a test well that will bring water samples from the Ellenberger and Hickory Sands aquifers to the surface.
The water will be analyzed so it can be determined how much treatment the water would require and how much it would cost. City officials have said they want to know whether the water district will drill the production wells, and if if it does, which would be the most cost-effective: the wells or the supplemental treatment plant.
"Obviously it is the responsibility of Brownwood to do what's best for its citizens … they have a fiduciary responsibility to do what's best for their city and I understand that," Bezanson said.
Bezanson said the treatment process would involve multiple barriers including an "ultra-filtration barrier," a membrane consisting of small straws. Water would be forced under pressure into tiny pores that would block protozoa, bacteria and viruses, Bezanson said.
"It filters out the things in the water you don't want to have be there," Bezanson said. "Should anything get past that barrier, then they zap it with ultraviolet light which kills any remaining organism. They use disinfectant. then when they've done all that, they start all over and do the whole thing again.
"Only this time they're doing it with reverse osmosis which is an even tinier pore than the ultra-filtration …all of this is overkill. The reason for the overkill is, if there were to be a failure of any step there are plenty more steps to be absolutely sure."
There are water reuse projects around the world that are the same as Brownwood's proposed project, Bezanson said, but there aren't projects in Texas like Brownwood's.
"What is different about Brownwood is that it will be putting it directly back in the water supply rather than putting it in a reservoir first," Bezanson said. "Most reuse (consists of) putting it back into a reservoir and pulling it back out of the reservoir, which mixes it with water that isn't reuse water."
City Manager Bobby Rountree said he and Mayor Stephen Haynes met with Bezanson during her visit to Brownwood. "Because of her knowledge and background, we appreciate her support," Rountree said. "She was extremely knowledgeable about the process. She's very well versed in the project."
West Texas cities "are watching what happens in brownwood," Bezanson said. "Will they get their (state) permit? Yes they did. Is the design considered safe by the state? Yes it is.
"If Brownwood moves with this project … we'll be seeing these kind of projects all over West Texas and maybe Central Texas."
Bezanson is a 1968 graduate of Brownwood High School. Her parents, now deceased, were Ocie and Reva Crump.
Bezanson said she first learned about Brownwood's proposed project from a newspaper article "and being from brownwood I was obviously interested in learning more about that. I'd love to say congratulations to Brownwood. I'm very proud of my city."