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River water plant data to be verified
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Years of work on a proposed surface water treatment plant by Turlock Irrigation District (TID) will be reviewed by a consultant before Ceres and three other cities advance toward construction.

TID initially was to finance, build and operate the plant near Fox Grove northeast of Hughson to supply treated river water to Ceres, Hughson, Modesto and Turlock. But last December the utility company said it wasn't interested in the plant and only willing to sell raw water to the cities.

On Monday the Ceres City Council approved a plan to share the costs to have all of TID's data verified. Two companies will be involved in crunching the numbers to make sure they're still pertinent as the cities estimate costs and plan construction. Carollo Engineers will do a "peer review" of the engineering work done by TID. Of the $40,000 cost of the work, Ceres will cover $11,495. A firm named Horizon Water and Environment will do the environmental review.

The plant will be designed to supply Ceres with 6 million gallons of treated water per day to be blended in with water pumped out of the ground.

The four cities plan to form a joint powers authority to govern the plant.

The city of Ceres has long expressed interest in the plant as a way to meet future water needs. The city has been experiencing considerable cost and problems meeting water demands solely through groundwater.

The city's participation in the surface water delivery system will dramatically drive up costs. It's been estimated that rates will probably triple when the project goes on line in 2012 or later. The plant would cost an estimated $183.7 million with Ceres' share costing $46 million.

City officials say the system is expensive but necessary to provide a dependable source of water. Tightening state and federal water regulations are growing to the point that the city cannot solely rely on groundwater in the future.