PRWID Focuses Efforts on Eliminating Odor Created by Wildfire in Price Canyon
|The odor of burnt trees and bushes permeate the air where Sulphur Canyon Creek mixes water with the Price River about a mile above the PRWID plant. The creek is only one of the many streams that feed water into the river from the area where the wildfire took its toll on vegetation in the canyon last June. The brownish black rivulets of water are the primary cause of the odor in the drinking water supplied by the district to homes and businesses in the county. |
It was predicted at the start of the summer that wildfires raging across Utah would do more than cost millions of dollars to fight and dirty the air with smoke.
The predictions are coming to pass. Note the mud slides in Santaquin last week and the water filled with mud running quickly through northeastern Springville streets from denuded mountains caused by a manmade fire in June.
The ramifications of a local wildfire is evidenced by the water coming out of taps in most of Carbon County.
In June, a huge fire that attracted considerable attention started burning on a Sunday afternoon in Price Canyon and it roared over the top of the cliffs into the Emma Park area. In its transit, the blaze burned within a half mile of the Price River Water Improvement District plant. The fire ran right up Sulpher Canyon, a major drainage into the Price River.
After a week and 3,000 acres, fire fighting efforts by local entities and the United States Bureau of Land Management extinguished the blaze.
But the wildfire's effects will last a lot longer and, two weeks ago, the first of the impacts started to appear in the bathtubs and sinks in the Carbon County area.
"When that first storm hit, the water just rushed into Sulpher Canyon and brought a lot of the burnt material with it," indicated PRWID manager Phil Palmer during the regular meeting of the district's board Tuesday. "That washed into the Price River and headed down into our plant. We shut the flow into the plant off as soon as we realized it, but some of it got into our settling ponds."
According to Palmer, the water district installed a half-million dollar odor control unit in the treatment plant a few years ago. But the unit is primarily for removing odors related to algae.
"This is a different problem and I have found no one else in the state that is having or has had it," pointed out Palmer, explaining he had called water districts along the Wasatch Front to see if he could find someone who had dealt with a similar situation.
Part of the problem with what is happening to PRWID's plant has to do with its proximity to the actual fire site and the direct drainage.
In many cases when fires take place, the blazes affect watersheds and the water. But the fires and drainage in the area are usually miles away from the treatment facility. In the local case, however, the fire occurred close to the plant and directly in a major drainage, giving the water no distance to cleanse itself.
"We have had a lot of complaints over the last couple of weeks from customers who say their water smells," said Palmer. "Those complaints are justified, and we are trying to solve the problem. We have shut the water off to the plant when we could to keep out the runoff pollutants, but at some point we still need to make water so we do have to bring some in. As the less odorous water has been coming in we have been flushing lines throughout the system to get rid of some of the water that has the burnt odor. We will keep working on the problem."
Palmer emphasized that the water supply is completely safe for all uses, including drinking.
Acting on an unrelated matter at the public meeting, the PRWID board members voted to accept the final documents on the completion of the nitrification project at the utility's sewage treatment plant in Wellington.
"With the new system we can take almost 100 percent of the nitrogen out of the effluent," said Palmer. "It can be removed to the point that we can't even detect it."
The money secured to fund the project, which came from grants, was not all spent, however. Approximately $200,000 of the funding still remains in the water district's budget.
The water improvement district can use the remaining money to complete any kinds of improvement PRWID wants at the plant as long as the revenues are used within the confines of the property at the site.
In addition, the PRWID board voted to approve three items regarding utility moves that will need to be made in conjunction with the construction of the Helper overpass on U.S. Highway 6.
First, the district's board members approved the advertisement for bid submission for the actual movement of utility lines in the area.
Second, the PRWID officials approved an engineering contract for Creamer and Noble on the same project.
"The numbers for this project will all change when they get into the actual work, but that is expected," explained Palmer.
The board was reminded that the costs involved for all aspects of the project will be refunded to the district by the Utah Department of Transportation.
Finally they set a special meeting on Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. to open the bids they had approved the advertisement for.
In the managers report, Palmer reported that Utah Power and Light is just about done bringing three phase power to the new airport pump station and that those pumps should be on line within a couple of weeks.
He also reported that in a meeting with the state division of drinking water it appeared that both East Wellington and Carbonville water companies will be able to secure loans for lower than 2.1 percent on money they need to update their water systems. Those loans will be on the agenda at the divisions meeting in October.
He also reported that PRWID is sixth on the list for funding at the state level for money to work on sewer improvement. He told the board that the district may be able to get no interest money for the upcoming projects which over the 20 year payback period could make a substantial difference in the money paid out.
The board also had some comments and questions.
Guido Rachiele advised the board he was concerned about the possibility of running water lines relocated by the highway project in Helper over Bryner and Canyon Street, primarily because of the problems the construction could run into with rock as well as private residences in the area.
Palmer pointed out that the Utah Department of Transportation has taken the project back to the state agency's engineers to have another look at the matter because of the concerns in question.
One of the board members also brought up the fact that a rumor in town had surfaced blaming drinking water for illnesses that were sending children in the community to the hospital.
But Jeff Richins, assistant district manager for PRWID, said he had also heard these rumors, checked with local doctors and found that while there are kids in the hospital, none of them are there because of the water.
Board chair, Steve Denison, brought up some items he had learned about effluent conservation.
Denison asked the board to be thinking about ways the district might be able to use the effluent the treatment plant puts out rather than turning it back out into the Price River.
Richins pointed out that some of the water is presently being used to water the treatment plants property and for other uses.
According to regulations, the effluent a plant produces belongs to that entity until it is discharged into a stream.
"I would just like the boards thoughts on this," Denison concluded.