This shift in Fernley's primary resource has come about because an arsenic-removing water treatment plant for the city's ground water would cost about $7 million while a plant to treat canal irrigation water for consumption would be closer to $5 million. It's simple economics. As with many other western towns, Fernley's ground water just meets the old federal arsenic standard for drinking water of 50 ppb - but is not close to the new 10 ppb maximum contaminant level (MCL), set to become effective by late January, 2006. (Fernley received an extension from Nevada and won't have to meet the new standard until 2009.)
With a population that has doubled in the past eight years, Fernley also must deal with the mounting issue of the quantity of water available for the population. It's a huge conundrum for smaller towns increased costs of treating a dwindling water supply for a growing population.
Lost in the shuffle, once again, is the viable option of using point-of-use and point-of-entry (POU/POE) devices in towns of Fernley's size - perhaps the most economical solution to both arsenic removal and source water scarceness as an option. Instead of abandoning well water due to arsenic treatment issues, distributed use of POU/POE devices coupled with a smaller draw from the Truckee Canal using conventional treatment could satisfy the lower arsenic limit as well as alleviate strain on water availability.
The bottom line, according to WQA: Many, if not most, local water treatment officials are unaware of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) officially recognized option of using POU/POE technologies to meet EPA guidelines for MCLs - including arsenic. Also, many state officials don't recognize the option of using POU/POE, even though the EPA does.
For further information about dealing with local officials concerning POU/POE distributed treatment, call 630-505-0160 or visit www.wqa.org.