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Kenai wants end to water woes

City still deciding where to put well

Posted: Monday, August 06, 2007

Kenai drinking water was once again on the lips of city officials Wednesday night, if not in actuality, at least in word, as the city council approved ranking new municipal wells and arsenic removal as top priorities for state grants.

Resolution 2007-55, approved unanimously, requests Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation grant funding for the construction of new municipal water system production wells, arsenic removal equipment, a water transmission line and related improvements.

City Manager Rick Koch told the council, the project cost of drilling two additional production wells in the vicinity of Eagle Rock Drive, installing pumping and arsenic treating equipment and a 16-inch distribution main along the Kenai Spur Highway would total $4.4 million.

"We have $3.6 million in hand," he said. The DEC grant request would be for the remaining $800,000.

The city must find suitable drinking water that meets new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency arsenic level standards, which go into effect in 2009. Depending on the season, Kenai residents use between 800,000 and 900,000 gallons of water a day. On hot summer days, usage can reach 1 million gallons.

City water comes mainly from one of three city wells in the Beaver Creek aquifer, according to Koch. Water in that well meets the new EPA standard of 10 parts arsenic per billion, but the arsenic level in the other wells is slightly higher.

The problem with the water coming from the aquifer is a problem of aesthetics, Koch said. Water from the Beaver Creek aquifer is colored by tannins or organics, giving the water a slight brown color.

A consultant hired by the city said earlier this year, "There's nothing unsafe about it, it's just that people want clear water without any color."

Besides applying for grant funding for the project, Koch is continuing to study existing wells within Kenai city limits in an attempt to determine how water interacts from well to well.

"We're hoping to find the wells are not under the influence of surface water," Koch said, explaining such an influence could lead to an adverse effect on the Kenai River.

In July, the city sampled deeper groundwater in the Strawberry Road area, but found arsenic concentrations in the 40 parts per billion range.

Other options the city has considered include building a water treatment plant, which would add $2 million to the project, and going outside city limits to find suitable water. Koch said the cost of a transmission line to do that would run about $125 per foot for a 16-inch line.

In order to meet the 2009 deadline, Koch said, "The intent is to have this project under way by next construction season."

In other business, the council:

* removed a stipulation in the city code stating conflicts in the newly created Central Mixed Use zone between residential and business uses would be resolved in favor of business.

The stipulation had been inserted originally to protect businesses as residences are now being allowed in what was traditionally the city business district.

Councilman Rick Ross said Wednesday night, "We promoted the Central Mixed Use zone to businesses with this statement ... it was one of the selling points. On the other hand, I have not had one contact from business on (the removal of the stipulation)."

It was removed with a unanimous vote of the council.

* approved a list of surplus city equipment and supplies that will be sold through public auction, including computer monitors, bicycles and five city vehicles;

* approved bids for a 1/2-ton van for animal control and a 3/4-ton van for building maintenance;

* Approved transferring up to $8,250 to hire a contractor to remove dilapidated structures from Highland Pride Trailer Park; and

* Scheduled a work session for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 8, to discuss broadcasting city council meetings.



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