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Utah water quality division, rural association address commissioners

By MELANIE STEELE
Sun Advocate reporter

Representation from the state's rural water association and Utah Division of Drinking Water addressed Carbon commissioners regarding the importance of source protection at county government's regular meeting on Oct. 20 .

The association offers training and on-site assistance for small water systems in Utah.

According to Bob Lowe, resource specialist for the water association, there have been several examples of water sources in Utah that have been lost to contamination.

A well in Salt Lake City that provided five to six million gallons of water to the city a day was lost to contamination in the late 1980s.

Mapleton also lost a major water source when the explosives plant located above the city breached chemicals into the aquifer.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that all drinking water, whether it is from ground water, surface water or both, is vulnerable to being contaminated.

"If the drinking water source is not protected, contamination can cause a community significant expense as well as put people's health in danger," indicates the EPA. "Cleaning up contamination or finding a new source of drinking water is complicated, costly, and sometimes impossible."

Such was the case with a small Sevier County town, which lost its only water source to contamination.

A new source had to be implemented, which, according to Lowe, offered lower quality water as well as much less quantity.

Protecting Carbon County water sources from contamination is a responsibility that falls onto both the community and the state.

It makes economic sense to protect a water source, as the development of a new water source can cost between $100,000 to $500,000 to a community, according to Lowe.

The EPA also reminds elected officials and residents that, when a water source is contaminated, wages can be lost and medical cost incurred.

Communities are often forced to seek out alternative water supplies over the short run, and expand treatment systems over the long run.

"Preventing contamination is often cheaper than remedying its effects," comments the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

It also makes sense for environmental protection.

Water is a renewable resource, but there are limits to its quality and quantity, reminds the EPA.

Land development, polluted runoff from agricultural, commercial, and industrial sites, and aging wastewater infrastructure are examples of what can threaten the quality of drinking water sources.

The EPA said that in many areas, ground water is being pumped faster than aquifers are being recharged, and depleted aquifers are causing reduced ground water contributions to surface water flow. Surface water withdrawals are diminishing in-stream flows to the point that habitat, as well as water supply uses, are threatened, stated the EPA.

While programs like the Rural Water Association of Utah and the EPA help oversee that water is safe and protected from contamination, residents should also be informed to assure that they take the proper steps to avoid damaging the local water sources.

"Water protection isn't rocket science," said Lowe. "It's just keeping chemicals off the ground."

For more information on water source protection, Carbon County residents with Internet access may visit the EPA water source website at www.epa.gov/safewater/protect.html.






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