Kenai examines water issues

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2007

After approximately a year of testing arsenic levels in the city's groundwater system, Lori Dilley, of Hattenburg, Dilley and Linnell Engineering Consultants came to the Kenai City Council on Wednesday with recommendations for the location of a new well.

In order to meet federal water quality standards of 10 parts of arsenic per billion, as well as to get rid of its brown tint, the city tested more than 100 wells in a two-year-long process of elimination. Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said only one of Kenai's three working wells meets the EPA's arsenic standard, but it isn't as clear as the city would like it to be.

Dilley told council members that treating the well currently operating at the corner of Angler Drive and Beaver Loop for arsenic would cost the city between $900,000 and $1.5 million and generate as much as 115,000 gallons of wastewater a day. Koch said the only way to deal with the high volume of wastewater would be to run it through the sewage treatment plant, which would add another cost to the process.

"Given the constraints we're not sure what to do with the wastewater," he said to the council. "We're not going to be able to dump it into Beaver Creek."

After about a year of examining the city's water supply, Dilley's firm came up with two locations for a new well, but rejected one because the arsenic levels were greater than EPA standards. The remaining location, near the intersection of Eagle Rock Drive and the Kenai Spur Highway, meets EPA arsenic standards and is relatively clear, Dilley said.

"We would recommend drilling a well at Eagle Rock," she said, adding that the cost of drilling and testing the well site would be between $80,000 and $85,000.

Kenai Vice Mayor Joe Moore said he understands Dilley's concerns and those of the city manager over the arsenic levels in the water, but said the average resident is more concerned with its rusty-brown color.

"I don't want to ignore that residents would like clear water," he told the council.

Moore was concerned about shutting down all three currently working wells, wondering if the new well would be sufficient to meet the city's needs of 1,000 to 1,200 gallons per minute. Despite the high color, Koch said the city has no intention of decommissioning the only currently operating well that meets EPA standards.

"Nobody likes color," he said. "It's a secondary contaminant and that well meets EPA standards."

Koch said the city doesn't own the land, and he would talk with folks about the city putting a well on their undeveloped property. Dilley said the first step would be to do a pumping test in order to monitor how it would affect other wells in the area, and then test for quality. If Dilley's firm begins drilling in October, she said it should know the water quality by the beginning of November, but was asking for the city's permission to move forward, which was granted.

Later on, Moore brought forward an altered resolution to limit the number of two-stroke boat motors on the Kenai River below the Warren Ames Bridge. He changed it Wednesday morning, he said, because the similar regulations adopted by the Department of Natural Resources for the Kenai River Special Management Area were sent back to the state Department of Law for review.

"I didn't want to make reference to a resolution that wasn't law," said Moore, one of two Kenai representatives on the Kenai River Working Group trying to draft a joint resolution with the City of Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough. "I didn't want to make the assumption that (DNR was) going to pass it."

One significant change to the resolution was the removal of the month of July, which would ban two-stroke motors below the Warren Ames Bridge for the entire year. Council member Rick Ross, the second Kenai representative in the Kenai River Working Group, said he couldn't support extending the ban beyond the month of July, the time of year when hydrocarbons in the river exceeds EPA standards.

"(The resolution) should be consistent with what the state proposes," he said, adding that it wouldn't be fair to penalize one population of the fishermen on the river by targeting two-stroke motors. "I cannot support going beyond the month of July; (it would be) making a social policy statement rather than getting rid of a problem."

Eldridge seconded Ross's statement, adding that the loss of guides fishing for King Salmon after July decreases the hydrocarbon levels.

During a break in the meeting, Moore said the group will meet either next week or the week after following Soldotna's city council meeting. He'll bring Kenai's concerns to the table and listen to what Soldotna and the borough come up with.

"Hopefully we can all agree on one thing," he said. "That's my goal."

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at

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