Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the July 13 print edition of the Star-Argosy. Call 316-540-0500.
By Tessa Castor
Argonia’s water system improvements project is halfway through construction, according to Craig Stockebrand of Wilson & Company, the engineering firm responsible for design of the project. Stockebrand said the project is anticipated to be operational by the end of fall 2017.
APAC-Kansas, Inc., Shears Division is the general contractor completing the construction of the project and Layne Christensen based out of Wichita is providing the treatment equipment for the water treatment plant.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency sets levels of contaminants acceptable for potable water, and the city was able to meet all primary contaminate standards except for nitrate and arsenic.
Argonia’s water has been found with nitrate and arsenic levels above the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standards and regulations. Since 2009, the city has been trying to fund the $2.9 million project, hoping to move those levels into EPA compliance.
The treatment system will utilize granular activated carbon filters, arsenic adsorptive filters and an ion exchange treatment system. Chlorine will be added to the water as it enters the facility to change the form of arsenic and improve arsenic removal efficiencies.
Chlorine is harmful for the arsenic and ion exchange treatment systems, so the added chlorine is then removed with the granular activated carbon filters to protect the other treatment systems. The water is then treated with the other filters and treatment systems to remove the arsenic and nitrate from the water.
Ion exchange systems can remove contaminants such as nitrate, arsenic, sulfate, fluoride and others. Only about 50 percent of the water that is sent to the facility is treated in order to meet EPA compliance levels. Treating 50 percent of the water has saved the city capital costs in the water treatment equipment and will save the city operation and maintenance costs of the facility moving forward.
Stockebrand said that Argonia citizens likely won’t notice a difference in the smell or taste of their water, though they can know that their water is safe for consumption. He said the community’s side of the plant project has moved relatively smooth, with the funding being the largest challenge.
Argonia has gone through at least three funding application cycles to acquire the funds for the project, said Stockebrand. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is providing the community the necessary loan and principal forgiveness for the project. A community development block grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce has assisted in other expenses.
At this point in time, Stockebrand said that no similar projects are in Argonia’s near future. In Conway Springs, the city is working on upgrades to its water distribution and treatment systems, as both were either out of KDHE compliance or in need of repair. Over the next two to three years, Conway Springs will be sinking new water wells, upgrading the city’s water distribution lines, building a new water tower and building a new water treatment facility.
Argonia had a water distribution system replacement approximately 10 years ago, and this replacement is meeting the city’s needs. This measure has kept the city’s water distribution working well, despite the treatment issues.
Stockebrand said that water safety influences all ages, but nitrate issues are more likely to affect infants. He said that the best part of the project has been the community’s foresight, ensuring that Argonia has quality water for its current and future residents.
“People in Argonia can be confident that this facility will bring Argonia’s potable water quality in line with EPA standards,” said Stockebrand. “They can be confident that their water is safe to drink for all ages.”