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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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4/7/2006 4:00:00 AM
Arsenic: City moving ahead on plans
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT Facing a federal mandate and a December 2007 final deadline, the city apparently has no time to waste in its push toward an arsenic treatment plant.

This week, Public Works Director Craig McConnell presented the Prescott City Council with the latest list of proposed actions necessary to get a $23.5 million treatment plant in operation by the final Dec. 31, 2007 deadline.

Among them are: a $254,890 addition to the city's existing design contract with the Damon S. Williams Associates consulting firm and a $227,000 contract with the PinnacleOne firm to oversee the proposed construction-manager-at-risk action plan for construction of the plant.

This past January, new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards went into effect, lowering the acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water from the previous 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. While the city's water supply was in compliance with the previous standards, it does not meet the new levels.

For more than a year, the city has been exploring methods for bringing its water supply into compliance. In late 2004, it contracted with Damon S. Williams Associates to come up with a treatment plan for removing the arsenic that occurs naturally in the city's water supply.

After the consultants conducted a pilot program that tested various techniques, the city chose a coagulation/filtration system, estimated at a cost of about $23.5 million.

However, those plans raised questions this week from local resident Paul Cloke, who said he had researched a less expensive method for arsenic removal. "I'm not convinced this is the cheapest, best way to do that," Cloke told the City Council.

McConnell pointed out, however, that the pilot program "evaluated the technologies that were up and running at that time." The consultants looked at a number of different methods, he said, and chose a "proven and very straight-forward" method, which was also the "least-cost alternative."

McConnell concluded: "The time for discussion of alternatives has passed a long time ago."

In fact, in order to meet the federal mandate, he said, the city likely will have to use the construction-manager-at-risk program, for which the city would bring a contractor into the project during the design phase, rather than after the design is complete.

Meanwhile, the city also is working on other related projects, such as the drilling of test bore holes on the Big Chino Water Ranch near Paulden and the drilling of two new water wells near the airport.

Councilman Steve Blair asked how the city would handle possibly high levels of arsenic in the two new airport wells. "How are we going to treat those?" he asked.

McConnell responded that because of the location of the new wells, city officials expect them to be within the new federal arsenic standards. "All indications are that when we drill those airport wells, we do not expect to have an arsenic treatment issue," he said.

The council will consider the arsenic-related matters again at its next voting session on April 11.

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