ST. GEORGE — Plans are in the works for a $10 million arsenic treatment plant near Gunlock that would provide more backup water sources for St. George.
St. George Water Services plans to build the plant on Gunlock Road just south of Gunlock reservoir, Water Services Director Scott Taylor said. The project is slated to begin construction next year, and the estimated $10 million for the building will come out of the water services budget.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral. If the human body is exposed to high levels of arsenic, it can be harmed. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has designated that water with arsenic at or below 10 parts per billion is safe for drinking.
“Arsenic is found in a lot of groundwater all over,” Taylor said. “An arsenic treatment plant would remove the arsenic out of the water to a safe drinking water standard.”
Out of 11 groundwater wells owned by St. George Water Services near Gunlock, only two have a low enough arsenic level to be considered safe by the EPA, Taylor said. The other nine wells aren’t being used at this time because they have too much arsenic in them.
“We’ve just had to mothball the other nine wells we can’t use,” Taylor said. “We feel like the timing is right to build this plant so we can utilize all of the groundwater over there.”
Right now, other than what is produced by the two wells at Gunlock, St. George is purchasing water from the Quail Creek Reservoir water treatment plant, he said. Building an arsenic treatment plant at Gunlock would give St. George Water Services more source options.
St. George residents will probably not see water rates change after the arsenic treatment plant is completed.
“It costs just as much to treat the water at Quail Creek as it does over here at Gunlock,” Taylor said. “But it provides us a second source — a redundant source — and we’ll obviously be able to produce more water out of Gunlock.”
The plant will also help curb the effects of a possible future drought in Southern Utah, he said. Groundwater sources like the wells at Gunlock are less vulnerable to drought than above-ground water sources like Quail Creek Reservoir.
Construction of the arsenic treatment plant is expected to begin early 2019 and take 12-18 months for completion.
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