Arsenic Removal from Area Water to Cost $15 Million

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It will cost about $15 million to bring the water that flows into homes and businesses in the Reno-Sparks in compliance with new federal standards for arsenic, and officials say that's a bargain - thanks to the Truckee River.

Arsenic is common in many places that rely on wells for their drinking water, but the river provides most of the water used by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. About 15 percent to 25 percent comes from ground water - usually in the summer when the river is low.

Without the river, the cost of arsenic compliance would be in the $75 million range, according to Lori Williams, the authority's general manager.

"I think were in a very good situation because of our access to the river and being able to use that as a solution," she said.

She added that when the January 2006, deadline to meet the new arsenic standards arrives, the authority will be in compliance with the water it distributes to some 81,000 homes and businesses.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require that concentrations of naturally occurring arsenic do not exceed 10 parts per billion, down from the existing standard of 50 ppb.

Of 30 drinking water wells operated by the water authority, only three have arsenic concentrations in excess of the old standard, with levels recorded between 72 and 88 ppb.

But once the standards are lowered to 10 ppb, a total of 13 wells will either exceed the new limit or approach it, utility officials said.

Water from at least six wells will then have to be treated at the Glendale Water Treatment Plant to lower arsenic concentrations to acceptable levels.

The authority is developing a 10-year plan to pay for the cost of removing the arsenic that may include a combination of low-interest loans and rate hikes paid by water customers.