County residents discover how water gets from the Virgin River to their faucets

HURRICANE – It’s easy not to think about how the water that pours from the faucet gets from the Virgin River to your sink, or the process it undergoes to become suitable for drinking.

“We really take our water for granted,” Silver Reef resident Clay Mills said following a tour of the Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant. “We just turn on the faucet and expect it to be clean and ready to use.”

Members of a tour at the Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant look into one of the facility’s filtration tanks in which water is separated from contaminants. The black sludge on top of the water is the result of that process, Hurricane, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Mills and others were able to tour the water treatment plant Thursday as a part of the Washington County Water Conservancy District’s “Water Week.” The annual event is designed to help educate the public about the water they use.

“We do tours every year for (Water Week) and we have a lot of good reception from the people that come through,” said Dave Jessop, operations manager for the water district.

The Quail Creek treatment plant is located just southwest of the reservoir it’s named after, and serves as the entry point of water diverted from the Virgin River into the county’s water system.

While the Virgin River is the source of the water that goes through the plant, the facility can also draw from the Quail Creek and Sand Hollow reservoirs. During the summer, Quail Creek generally serves as the county’s source of drinking water.

Tours of the Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant were part of the Washington County Water District’s “Water Week,” an annual event aimed at educating the public about the water they use, Hurricane, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Water enters the facility though a 60-inch pipeline that can transfer more than 40,000 gallons a minute and runs through multiple treatment processes that uses chemicals and filtration systems to separate solids and other contaminants from the water.

Part of the process involves filtered water moving to the bottom of a filtration tank while the separated material rises to the top of the water as a dark, sludge-like substance. It is then swept off the top of the water and sent to the facility’s nearby lagoons where it is collected and hauled away, Jessop said.

“My son is really interested in seeing the water purification process,” Washington resident Marin McEwan, who toured the facility with her young son, said. “He wanted to see how the water moves through the system, where it starts in its raw, organic state and how you filter that.”

Tours of the Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant were part of the Washington County Water District’s “Water Week,” an annual event aimed at educating the public about the water they use, Hurricane, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The quality of the water traveling through the treatment plant is continuously checked by facility personnel.

“What we do is very important,” Jessop said. “We take Virgin River water that is very muddy and chocolate-looking at times and we put it through this facility, through reservoirs, through pipelines and we take that water and it comes out crystal clear and tastes great. Most of the water the county drinks comes right out of this facility.”

Jessop estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the county’s water passes through the treatment plant.

“We take pride in what we do,” he said.

The treatment plant has been operating since the mid-1980s and was originally run by the city of St. George until the water district took over operations. The original capacity of the plant was 10 million gallons a day. Today the plant is capable of pushing through 60 million gallons of treated water daily.

As the county’s population continues to grow, it is anticipated that the plant will be expanded to reach its maximum capacity of 80 million gallons in another five years or so, Jessop said.

“I’m really glad they allow the general population and citizens to come in and see the water treatment plant,” McEwan said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • SSTEED May 13, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    The chemicals used to fluoridate water are not pharmaceutical grade. Instead, they largely come from the wet scrubbing systems of the phosphate fertilizer industry. These chemicals (90% of which are sodium fluorosilicate and fluorosilicic acid), are classified hazardous wastes contaminated with various impurities. Recent testing by the National Sanitation Foundation suggest that the levels of arsenic in these silicon fluorides are relatively high (up to 1.6 ppb after dilution into public water) and of potential concern (NSF 2000 and Wang 2000). Arsenic is a known human carcinogen for which there is no safe level. This one contaminant alone could be increasing cancer rates – and unnecessarily so.

    • WCWCD May 15, 2018 at 10:30 am

      @SSTEED, fluoride addition is not part of the treatment process at the Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant; however, there are small amounts of naturally-occurring fluoride in most water sources throughout the west.

      • comments May 15, 2018 at 9:55 pm

        i never understood the whole fluoride in the water thing. Like why would you want to ingest the stuff just so a little of it can swish around on your teeth before you swallow it. It just seems absurd. It’s be like eating lipstick by the tube just so a little would stay on your lips. LOL, picture that 😉

      • SSTEED May 16, 2018 at 7:16 pm

        I’m a day late and a dollar short but thanks for the response. Its a big load off my mind and sorry for bringing this up after all the good work you guys do. The intention is to educate, not to criticize.

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