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Woods Cross City Council votes to build water treatment plant

Published April 22, 2013 12:13 pm

Pollution • Facility will remove dry-cleaning solvent and other contaminants from city's wells.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Woods Cross • Residents who have been buying bottled water for drinking and cooking might be switching back to tap water soon.

The Woods Cross City Council has voted to build a $4 million water treatment plant to remove contaminants from its wells.

The project — which will increase rates by approximately $100 a year per household — is on the fast track. The facility is expected to go into operation in summer 2014.

"I think, at this point in time, it's all systems go," Mayor Kent Parry said at a council meeting last week.

The plant will be designed to remove a range of organic contaminants, including tetrachloroethylene, informally called PCE. It is a manufactured organic chemical thought to have leached into the Woods Cross underground water system from dry cleaners over the years.

More than 90 percent of the Woods Cross drinking water supply comes from five wells located throughout the city. After regular testing detected the dry cleaning solvent in four of them, city officials say they began using the uncontaminated well as much as possible, using the others only when necessary during the high-demand period in the summer.

People who drink water with higher concentrations can, over many years, develop liver problems and an increased risk of getting cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The level of PCE in the four wells has never gone above the maximum allowed under EPA standards, which is 5 parts per billion, or the equivalent of five drops of water in a 660,000-gallon Olympic size swimming pool. However, city leaders were worried that the plume of contaminants, known as the Five Points PCE Plume, would increase and began exploring alternatives to using the wells.

The options were narrowed to three:

• Do nothing as long as the water met state and federal standards regarding PCE. If a well exceeded those guidelines, the city would pipe higher-quality water to blend with the tainted water to reduce the PCE levels. This option would cost $2 more per month for each connection.

• Stop using the wells and buy water from Weber Basin Conservancy District, which would cost $10 to $12 a month.

• Treat the water to remove PCE, for $7 to $9 a month, which would cover the cost of building the plant and increased operating expenses.

To get input from residents, Woods Cross held open houses and conducted an online survey. The results showed that 96 percent think PCE in the water is a problem and 85 percent want the treatment plant option, according to Joshua Palmer, public involvement manager of The Langdon Group. There were nearly 300 respondents.

"It's clear what direction they want us to go," City Administrator Gary Uresk said at the April 16 council meeting.

Council members David Hill, Jill Evans and Ryan Westergard voted to approve building a plant. Tamra Dayley and Rick Earnshaw were not able to attend and had been excused.

The plant will be financed with a bond, Uresk said, and the city also will try to get a grant from the Utah Drinking Water Board, he said.

Woods Cross residents Ruth Hatch and Penny Llewelyn are pleased with the decision. Llewelyn said feeling safe drinking the water and cooking with it is worth the increased rates.

And Hatch said treating the water will protect future generations as well as current residents.

"It's a good time to put something in place before it affects us," she said. "Why take any risk?

A neighboring community, North Salt Lake, also has found PCE in its water supply. The city shut down the two wells with traces of the substance and is evaluating what technologies to use to deal with the problem, City Manager Barry Edwards said.

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC