Cleaned-Up Water Adds To Town's Supply

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About a third of the town's daily water supply -- about 420,000 gallons -- is now coming from the Expanded Groundwater Treatment System on West Aero Drive.

That amounts to 300 gallons a minute added to the town's water system since the EGTS was put into service Oct. 29.

"We're just tickled to death after all these years to have it up and running," said Buzz Walker, public works director for the town.

In 1990, while testing was being conducted for new wells near Aero Drive and South Meadow Street, unknown quantities of perchloroethylene (PCE) were found in the groundwater.

The area had been the site of a dry cleaning establishment. The owner had died and there was no other responsible party.

In 1993, the state's Water Quality Assurance Fund (WQARF) took on the cleanup project at a cost of $5 million for the EGTS.

After the treatment center was completed, it ran for 90 days straight.

"It then sat unused for 11 months until we turned it on at the end of October," Walker said. "We tested for two things -- to make sure it ran, and to test the water."

The water will continue to be tested every two weeks.

"It's the best water in town," Walker said.

The EGTS produces crystal clear water that goes through "tons and tons" of activated carbon, he said.

It also has hardness treatment without involving the use of chemicals. The effect of pumping the water from the EGTS has enabled the town to rest other wells that have been heavily used.

The treatment plant is set up to meet the demands of the town and will cost WQARF another $300,000 to $400,000 a year to operate.

"If (the EGTS) can't keep up, all the other wells come back on automatically," Walker said.

The Woodland Meadows well's groundwater level has recovered 20 feet since the EGTS began pumping water into the town's system, but that's not the only good news for Payson.

Town staff is working on developing a new well in the Sky Park Industrial Center. Walker said he's hoping the additional well will provide at least 150 gallons a minute.

"We're currently test pumping -- that generally lasts a week," he said.

The town has even more water coming on line before the summer.

"We're getting ready to go to bid for a new storage tank north of the airport runway," Walker said. "When we get that built, we'll be able to use the Stone Creek and Payson Pine wells."

Walker said the two subdivision wells alone will provide about a half-million gallons of water a day, one-half the town's current use in the winter and one-quarter of its summer consumption.

Payson spelled "relief" r-a-i-n when the four-year drought came to an end this past year.

"We got more rainfall than we've gotten for several years," Walker said. "The last time the storage tanks were low was one-and-a-half years ago."

Add to that the conservation measures Payson residents observed this past summer and you've got one happy water department.

Walker said the town will still have to follow the guidelines set by Southwest Ground-water Consultants in a report to the town released June 1.

The study recognized that there would be years of drought followed by years of adequate precipitation. It called for a pro-active water conservation program that would educate the public and tourists on the importance of conserving local water resources.

"We have additional conservation measures, summer water rates and new landscaping codes, that will come into effect before next summer," Walker said.

"Things look fine. It looks like we have an adequate supply for years to come."

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