Treatment facility planned to remove color from city water

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2010

Like a leaky faucet, the City of Kenai's tap water issues have been an annoying and ongoing problem.

But after years of city wrenching, the spigot will drip no more.

City officials plan to erect a treatment plant by next fall to remove the water's discoloration and lessen the amount of arsenic in the well.

Drinking water "has been an issue for the people that I work for as long as I lived here for 20-plus years," said Joe Moore, Kenai council member. "It's nice to see this coming to an end."

Rick Koch, Kenai city manager, said that the city is moving forward with a treatment methodology for water from the city's Well 2, near Beaver Creek and the Kenai Spur Highway.

"It's a coagulation and filtration process where we utilize a commonly used and permitted chemical that goes in the water," Koch explained.

He said that the chemical attaches to the molecules that cause discoloration and pulls out the color as well as some arsenic.

"It will decrease arsenic an additional three-quarter parts per billion," he said.

The water in Well 2 currently meets the federal standard for arsenic levels of less than 10 parts per billion, said Scott Hattenburg, principal engineer of Hattenburg Dilley and Linnell, the city-hired consultants.

He said the city has other wells that do not meet the federal regulations for arsenic. A small amount of water from these wells is used and added to the city's main water source, but not enough to significantly raise arsenic levels.

"We have great water, it just has a little color," Koch said. "It's an appearance issue and not a water quality or health issue."

At a city council work session last month, city council members directed administration to progress with a $5.5 million facility that would treat the Well 2 water to 20 color units total and increase the city's operations and maintenance rates by some $150,000.

That means an additional $2.05 on residents' monthly bills and more for the businesses depending on metered usage.

"My belief is that people are going to be willing to pay increased water rates for the much improved water that has the arsenic within the federal limits and the color will be much improved," said Bob Molloy, council member.

Kenai has been doing water quality studies since 2004, drilling monitor wells and sampling existing sources for low color and arsenic levels.

"At the end of that study we found that there were no hidden sources of water within the City of Kenai with no color or arsenic," Hattenburg said. "At that point the city decided to look at color removal."

He explained that the chemistry of every groundwater source is different so treatments have to be custom-tailored to that specific water.

"It's been quite a program you go through to try and find water to determine what the treatment methodologies are," Koch said.

The last hurdle the city needs to jump is ensuring that there are enough water sources near Well 2 to hydrate Kenai in the future.

Water supply occasionally dwindles for the city in the summer when demands are high for irrigation and fish processing purposes, Hattenburg said.

He said the city will conduct an aquifer study next month.

"We're trying to answer the question, 'how much water will the aquifer produce?'" he said. "There's enough water to supply the current needs."

"Based on the results of the aquifer study if there's enough capacity there the city is moving forward with the treatment plan," Hattenburg added.

Moore said that he is happy the city is finally able to address the water problems.

"It's something people have consistently asked for year after year," he said.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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