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City Manager: Kenai's new well nearly online

Posted: September 12, 2013 - 8:35pm  |  Updated: September 12, 2013 - 8:48pm

The city of Kenai’s new high-production well will be online in no more than a month once city workers configure the machine’s programming and functions, City Manager Rick Koch said.

Installation of the new well comes months after summer-long city water shortages. During the shortages, the city supplemented water demands from two low-production wells — wells one and two — which contained arsenic levels that exceed Environmental Protection Agency standards.

The city stopped using the wells pumping arsenic-infused water in August, Public Works Director Sean Wedemeyer said.

When exactly the city stopped pumping from the two arsenic-producing wells Koch was unable to answer. He was also unable to answer when the wells were last sampled for arsenic levels. He deferred both questions to Wedemeyer.

After deadline Wednesday, Wedemeyer provided two dates for wells one and three — Aug. 4 and July 1, respectively — but did not specify whether they were the dates testing was conducted or the dates the wells were removed from use.

Cindy Christian, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation statewide compliance and monitoring manager, said arsenic testing June 5 found 23 parts per billion in well one. Testing Aug. 22, 2012, found 29 parts per billion in well three, she said. EPA’s drinking water maximum contaminate level is 10 parts per billion.

According to the ADEC, arsenic is a naturally occurring toxin found in many Kenai Peninsula water systems. The other Peninsula sites exceeding EPA arsenic levels as of Aug. 13 are the following: River Terrace RV Park, KB Water Association, the Academy of Higher Learning, Tustumena Elementary, North Stare Elementary, Sterling Elementary and the Kenai LNG Plant, said Jamie Bjorkman, environmental program specialist for ADEC.

Now the city will “mothball” the two wells, Wedemeyer said. Workers will remove sections of pipe from the two units, and, unless the two high-production wells experience a catastrophe, the two other wells will sit dormant, he said.

Once the high-production well is online, the city will pump 2,000 gallons of water a minute, 1,200 more than its current production rate, Koch said. From its two high-production wells, the city will meet demands for clean drinking water for three decades, Koch said.

The city spent $450,000 for the new well, its associated construction and programming, he said.

The city’s summer-time water woes began during the sunny, dry days of June when city residents used more water than the city’s wells could pull from the ground. With its high-production well and alternating between its two arsenic-pumping wells, the city produced about 1 million gallons of water daily — but residents were using 1.2 to 1.4 million gallons of water a day.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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