Water Plant To Resume Pumping

Water contamination reduced to safe levels

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Payson officials say the ground-water treatment station they shut down earlier this month because high levels of a gasoline additive had been found in the water will be up and running again by the end of the week.


The Town of Payson and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality built the plant in south Payson two years ago to filter a dry-cleaning solvent out of the ground water in the area. Town officials believe a dry cleaning business, which has long since closed, allowed the solvent to leach into the aquifer and contaminate the water decades ago.


The water pumps, which produce 75 gallons of drinking water a minute, were stopped at the beginning of this month when station monitors detected another contaminant -- the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE.


"The MTBE has stabilized," said Michael Nesky, Payson project manager for ADEQ. Nesky said he and his team have run a series of tests at the plant since the contamination was discovered Sept. 1 and they've determined that the system can also safely filter out the MTBE. ADEQ officials are still searching for the source of the MTBE contamination.


"Everything is hunky-dory," Nesky said. Now it's a matter of routine maintenance, he said.


"We are waiting for a carbon (filter) change out," Payson Public Works Director Buzz Walker said. "Every once in a while you have to change it because it gets full of the contaminants. It's as routine as changing toilet paper in the bathroom."


The town may also reactivate a second, larger water treatment plant in south Payson later this week, Nesky said.


Shortly after the first plant was built, the town and ADEQ built an expanded water treatment station that can produce 200 gallons of drinking water a minute. Both plants are off Aero Drive in south Payson.


The larger treatment plant also was shut down because it had been repeatedly struck by lightning. The town is installing a surge protector later this week to guard the station's equipment against future storms. The station won't be turned on again until the surge protector is in place, Nesky said.

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