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Uranium & arsenic well levels too high

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POSTED April 20, 2014 11:40 p.m.

LATHROP – It took eight years before Lathrop’s Well 21 – constructed to serve the Mossdale and River Islands developments – was considered safe enough to bring online to augment the city’s water system.

Bacteria levels detected in the groundwater at in 2004, when the well was built, exceeded the levels that were determined to be safe at the time which rendered it essentially inoperable. Money became available in 2011 that allowed for an overhaul to remove the bacteria, and by early 2012, everything looked like it was a go.

That lasted six months.

By the end of the year the arsenic and uranium levels were measured above the safe standards – taking the well off-line a second time, and forcing the city to look once again for a method to refine the water once again.

The cost of the preliminary construction work? Just under $200,000.

Since the money was already budgeted, it’ll be a consent calendar item vote when the matter comes before the Lathrop City Council tonight. A simple majority vote will be needed to give city staff the green light to move ahead.

According to the staff report prepared as part of the council packet, the project will require water from a nearby well and will blend the two sources to dilute the concentration of uranium rather than using an expensive system to remove the traces altogether. The element, which is radioactive and is mined in certain regions for use in energy creation and weapons manufacturing, can increase the risk of cancer and cause kidney damage in high doses. It is naturally occurring.

Arsenic, which is also naturally occurring but can be deposited through the use of certain pesticides, can be removed through a centralized system at Lathrop’s new corporation yard. Using a special media that binds to the arsenic in the water, the clean drinking water is redistributed into the system whereas the media – in the form of a black, tarry substance when it is done being used – is separated and hauled off.

The $200,000 contract with the consultant would provide all of the preliminary engineering and design services – including the environmental permits required through the California Department of Public Health – and would prepare it for the bidding process. The city would then get an official number on how much the construction would cost.

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