Missouri PSC OKs Missouri American acquisition of Purcell water, sewer systems

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Sep. 4—PURCELL, Mo. — The Missouri Public Service Commission last week approved a request by Missouri American to acquire the water and sewer systems in the city of Purcell.

The commission noted in its order that in February 2021 Missouri American was contacted to provide assistance for Purcell's water and sewer systems.

"Purcell had no certified water or sewer system operator at that time, and was unable to operate its systems in a safe and compliant manner," the commissioners noted. "Certified operators are required by the permit and are necessary for ensuring these systems are operable, providing safe and reliable service, and compliant with the terms of the permit."

At the time, the drinking water disinfection system was not functioning, and the sewer system was discharging wastewater that was neither safe nor compliant with state standards.

On March 16, 2021, city officials entered into an operation and maintenance agreement with Missouri American, and in August, the city held an election, with more than 90% of the voters favoring selling the water and sewer system to the investor-owned utility for $200,000.

At the time of the vote, Purcell Mayor Kelsey Freelend said she believed the move was the right one for the city and for residents.

"All of this goes back to the fact that our town was never really able to sustain the water and sewer treatment plant like it needed to be. There's a lot of money that goes into sustaining a facility like we have," Freelend said at the time.

Christie Barnhart, external affairs manager at Missouri American Water Co., said Missouri American would make improvements to Purcell's infrastructure to make sure it meets environmental requirements set down by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and provides better service to the community.

In its ruling, the PSC determined there was a need for the service, that Missouri American is qualified to provide the proposed service and has the financial ability to provide it, that the utility's proposal is economically feasible and that the service promotes the public interest.

Purcell serves approximately 160 water accounts and 150 sewer accounts.

Current customers residing inside the city pay a monthly customer charge of $15 and pay $3.50 per 1,000 gallons for water service; those residing outside the city pay a $22 monthly customer charge and $6 per 1,000 gallons for water service. Sewer customers pay $36 for the first 0 to 999 gallons, and $5 per each additional 1,000 gallons.

According to the PSC, Missouri American has proposed combining all customers and consolidating rates because there are no additional costs to providing service inside or outside the city. As a result, water customers will pay a $9 monthly customer charge and about $6.25 per 1,000 gallons for water service, and customers will pay a flat monthly rate of $61.64 for sewer service.

Missouri American provides water service to approximately 470,000 customers in Missouri, including Joplin. It also provides sewer service to approximately 16,500 customers in the state.