STPUD has new well treatment facility |

STPUD has new well treatment facility

Colin Hupp, Tahoe Daily Tribune

When a new well water treatment facility gets going next spring, South Shore will be able to recover water supply lost because of gasoline additives.

Methyl tertiory butyl ether, or MTBE, was supposed to be a boon to the environment, cleaning California’s smoggy skies with oxygenated fuels. However, it posed a threat to drinking water, causing the South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District to shut down 12 wells. Eight of those were closed for direct contamination, while four were closed because MTBE plumes were discovered close to the wells.

Dennis Cocking, public information officer for STPUD, said a new treatment from Applied Process Technology, Inc. will allow the district to clean low levels of MTBE contamination out of wells — and then return those wells to active production.

“Until MTBE is out of gasoline, our wells will always be at risk,” Cocking said. Gov. Gray Davis mandated the phasing out of MTBE use in California, to be completed by Dec. 31, 2003.

The wells in Meyers, Arrowhead 1 and Arrowhead 2, were shut down for MTBE contamination in 1997. Another well in the same location, Arrowhead 3, was drilled into a deeper aquifer, in hopes of avoiding the contaminated water in the previous wells. After the new well was drilled, low levels of MTBE were detected.

Rather than abandon the new well altogether, STPUD turned to a new technology that mixes hydrogen peroxide and ozone into the water. These react chemically with the MTBE and create byproducts of water and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is vented off, and the leftover water is returned to the drinking water system.

“There is a twofold benefit to the process,” Cocking said. “Eight hundred gallons a minute we lost gets returned to our water delivery system, and the well itself gets flushed and rehabilitated.”

Project manager Nick Zaninovich says the new system is skid mounted, and could be moved to other wells once Arrowhead 3 is treated.

“We’re going to be able to use this water again,” Zaninovich said. “People take their water for granted, they turn on their taps and it’s there.”

The new system works like a giant radiator enclosed in a long brown metal shed. Water is pumped into the tubes of the radiator and mixed with ozone and hydrogen peroxide. At the end of the tubes the carbon dioxide gets vented off and an array of sensors examines the water. Control valves then either will send the water back into the system or out to the sewer.

This is the first time that water is being treated with this system and then sent back into the supply line. Previously, the system was used to clean up contaminated waters to acceptable levels for disposal into sewers.

The system was delivered in November, and should be ready to clean water by Memorial Day 2003.

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