Arsenic-laced wells out of service
Cindy Anderson smiled in the bright sunshine of South Upper Truckee Road as pipe layers dug deep into her yard.
Sharon Seegelken, her next-door neighbor, had a spring in her step as she worked in her garage, not far from the orange-stained rocks that border her flower garden.
A cabinetmaker who lives next to Anderson, Wayne Hosman, was busy shaping wood in his garage workshop but took time to say: “My water is bad, but not so bad I worry about health risks.”
Hosman and others along South Upper Truckee and Memory Lane have decided they’ve had well water they cannot drink long enough. This week, after banding together and spending about $60,000 to solve their problem, their faucets and throats will welcome water from the South Tahoe Public Utility District.
“We’re going to have a big party and just have bowls of water,” Anderson said.
No longer will she have to use Iron Out to clean the orange grime from her washer and shower.
“I was bleaching everything I had just about to rags,” she said. “I wish I had stock in Iron Out.”
A contractor this week is expected to finish up the installation of more than 1,500 feet of new waterline to four homes. The work will allow the homes to tap into district water.
The district added $18,000 on top of the project costs to finance an 8-inch water line instead of a 6-inch line, which was originally planned. The wider pipe will allow better fire protection with three fire hydrants going in along South Upper Truckee.
The water line project didn’t draw more neighbors because it was an expensive undertaking and because some wells in the area produce good quality water. In the future, if more residents decide to use the new pipe, the homeowners who financed it will recoup some of their investment, said Lisa Coyner, district customer service manager.
The group decided to take action this summer after Seegelken’s well pump fried and the Andersons determined they had showered long enough in water that contained high levels of arsenic.
Arsenic is an element found in minerals. Several types of cancer have been linked to arsenic-laden water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Anderson has tested her water every year since they moved from Apache Avenue four years ago. They had no clue finding drinking water would be a challenge.
Water from the latest test, which cost her and her husband $125, registered arsenic at 154 parts per billion. The state considers more than 50 parts per billion a health hazard. That number may soon be lowered to 10 parts per billion, said Terry Powers, laboratory director at the district.
El Dorado County Department of Environmental Management tested Anderson’s well and confirmed the high levels of arsenic. They are still investigating why the well is producing such high levels of the poisonous chemical. The county department tested Jerry Svensson’s well across the street. No arsenic was found in the well yet he still opted to put up money so he can be tied into the district water system.
All well owners should test the water it produces at least once, said Ginger Huber, environmental division manager at Tahoe. Many of the homes that don’t have access to district water are along South Upper Truckee, Huber said.
To find out where well water can be tested, call county environmental management at (530) 573-3450.
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