Save the Water™ Archives G.I. Utilities aims at removing Uranium from drinking water

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Save the Water™ Archives |  Tracy Overstreet | August 9, 2010 | theindependent.com | Shared as an education material

Grand Island Utilities is preparing to launch a pilot project aimed at removing uranium from drinking water.

The city council will be asked Tuesday night to spend about $35,000 to hire a specialized design firm, HDR Engineering of Lincoln, to design the removal system that would be built at the city’s Platte River well field next summer.

The pilot project would impact about three wells that each pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute.

“The technology is an absorption technology,” Utilities Director Gary Mader said. “Some of this is relatively new technology.”

The water passes through filters that absorb uranium and other metals. That process has been used in the past in other applications but not to the volume of Grand Island’s wells, he said.

“Just to keep track of things and make sure these technologies work — and looking to the future in case things do change there — we’re looking to build a pilot plant to treat a couple of the higher uranium content wells,” Mader said.

An equipment building will be constructed after specifications are prepared as part of the contract under consideration on Tuesday.

Mader said the improvement is one that is planned for as part of routine capital projects. He does not anticipate a rate increase for this project.

The city has 21 high-pressure wells located on a Platte River well field to supply the city its drinking water.

New federal regulations were created in 2003 that required the testing for uranium. Some of Grand Island’s wells tested above the safe drinking water standard, so the city added piping from the high wells to dilute their water with water from wells with low or no uranium readings.

Currently, about half of the 21 wells have high uranium readings and are diluted before distribution.

“Sampling and testing of the Grand Island water system thus far show full compliance with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulation,” Mader wrote in a memo to the city council.

Uranium is naturally occurring, he said, and only creates a problem when exposure occurs over a lifetime.

“Studies suggest that ingestion of high levels of uranium may be associated with an increased risk of kidney damage. … Exposure to soluble uranium in drinking water has not been shown to increase the risk of developing cancer,” a NebGuide on uranium says.

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