The Somervell County Water District still hopes to turn on the water by September. To make sure that water is of high quality, the district has been building a new treatment plant with a “state-of-the-art” filtration system.

Water District General Manager Kevin Taylor gave the Reporter a tour recently. At the heart of the facility taking shape at the base of the Wheeler Branch Reservoir dam is a filtration system that uses long tubes containing membrane filters with pores so tiny they can remove parasites such as giardia and crypto. The facility will have 120 of the filters.

“That lake has really good water from what we've seen so far,” said Hugh Bollin, the plant's manager.

The plant includes a laboratory that will run analyses on water samples. Regular reports must be submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to make sure the water quality falls within state regulatory requirements.

Bollin has worked at water treatment facilities for the City of Cleburne and the Benbrook Water Authority, but he is pumped up, so to speak, about being involved in a brand-new facility.

“A membrane facility is the latest and the greatest,” he said.

Once the plant begins operating, water will be pumped into the plant from the reservoir through a giant pipe, then circulated through the filtration system.

The plant will be able to filter 2.5 million gallons of water a day and has enough room to double that capacity if needed. The plant and pump station are expected to be completed in June. BAR Constructors of Lancaster is the contractor. The Texas Water Development Board awarded the district a $30 million financial package for the overall water project.

The facility exterior's use of native limestone helps it blend into the natural environment and complement the stone structures in Wheeler Branch Park, which is open for swimming, picnicking and light boating. Starting September 1, the lake also will be open for fishing.

“This is so visible for people coming into the park that we wanted it to be a nice-looking facility,” Taylor said.

Outside, workers are building two large settling lagoons, which resemble swimming pools. They will be used when the filters are being cleaned, which occurs automatically about every 20 to 30 minutes. The water in the filters will be diverted to the lagoons while they're being cleaned, then the sediments settle out of the water into the ponds. That water then will be discharged into Wheeler Branch — the creek, that is — improving its flow.

Taylor wanted to stress that it's “completely optional” for county residents to buy water from the district.

“The advantage is that it should be high-quality water,” Taylor said.

Some waterwells have high iron or sulphur content, often requiring filters. And wells can break down. Fixing them can be expensive. Some residents may prefer being able to plan their water costs, Taylor and Bollin pointed out.

Meanwhile, work continues at the park, with sheltered picnic tables completed. A pavilion similar to the one in the county's Heritage Park currently is under construction. It also will contain picnic tables, but no fireplace.

For more information about the district and the park, including hours and fees, please check the Web site at www.scwd.com.