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Great Lakes Article:

Arsenic levels dip in water tests
Amounts need to drop more for aquifer storage
By Peter Rebhahn
Green Bay Press Gazette
08/23/03


Water samples taken so far this month in Green Bayís test of a new-to-the state water-storage technique continue to show high levels of arsenic.

But the city remains optimistic about the outcome of the test and the long-term role of aquifer storage and recovery in the areaís drinking water future.

"Weíre looking at this data as very encouraging," said Bill Nabak, general manager of the Green Bay Water Utility.

In aquifer storage and recovery, ready-to-drink water is piped underground into wells converted from groundwater pumping to storage.

Aquifer storage and recovery is legal in Wisconsin, but communities that want to use it must pass rigorous water-quality tests. So far, only one has.

Workers began a second round of testing the technique at the cityís well on North Military Avenue in early August by injecting into it 2.3 million gallons of drinking water.

Water retrieved from a monitoring well drilled about 50 feet from the test well shortly after injection contained dissolved arsenic at a concentration of 29 micrograms per liter - nearly three times a 10-microgram standard recently enacted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But a week later the arsenic level had fallen to 20 micrograms per liter, and a third test a week after that showed a concentration of 17 micrograms. A microgram is one-millionth of one gram; a gram is 0.04 ounce. A liter is 0.88 of a quart.

"The numbers are moving in the right direction," said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.

A first attempt to test aquifer storage at the Military Avenue well, which began in June 2002, ran into problems when 10 million gallons of injected water caused arsenic levels to spike as high as 270 micrograms per liter.

Arsenic is a poisonous natural element that is released from the rock where itís trapped when it reacts with oxygen in the water injected beneath ground.

Before resuming the test, the city lined the well to a depth of 625 feet to prevent water from contacting arsenic-bearing rock lying 400 feet to 600 feet down.

Aquifer storage and recovery, or ASR, saves water utilities and their ratepayers money because it allows utilities to meet summer demand peaks with stored water - peaks that otherwise could be met only by expensive upgrades to size water systems to meet peak demands.

The outcome of Green Bayís test could be known as soon as December, but the state Department of Natural Resources probably wonít make a decision until June 2004, Nabak said.

The technique figures prominently in complicated negotiations that could link Green Bay and eight suburbs in a shared drinking-water future.

"The ASR is still the main plan," Schmitt said. "Itís the best thing to do for the city and the suburbs."

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