Drinking Water: DEQ Funding Keeps Water Safe to Drink

By Michael Grange

Safe, clean drinking water. Something everyone wants, but something that may not happen all on its own. There are times when Mother Nature needs a helping hand. The cities of Magna, Woods Cross, and Gunnison have experienced this firsthand. In each case, the contamination was identified in the drinking water source, and in each case, the city elected to remove the contaminant through a treatment process. The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) was able to help these cities clean up their drinking water through loans from State Revolving Fund programs.

DDW administers two revolving funds: the federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and the state Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). These programs provide low-interest loans and grants to cities, towns, water districts, and non-profit water companies to finance drinking water projects. Loans are typically provided at an interest rate well below the market rate over a 20 year period. Once the division receives an application for funding, DDW staff evaluate the application and engineering report and place the proposal on the Project Priority List. The evaluation assigns priority points based on criteria established in state rules. DDW staff then prepare a feasibility report and recommendation to present to the Utah Drinking Water Board for funding approval.

For Magna, the contaminants were both naturally occurring and manmade. Perchlorate, a chemical used in manufacturing rocket fuel, and arsenic, a naturally occurring element, were identified in the ground water. Removing these contaminants is not cheap but is necessary to protect human health. Magna approached the Drinking Water Board for financial assistance to build the treatment plant and provide a safe supply of drinking water for its residents. The Board authorized $6 million from the SRF for the project.

Woods Cross Drinking Water Treatment Facility

Woods Cross Drinking Water Treatment Facility

In Woods Cross, the drinking water aquifer was contaminated with the dry cleaning chemical tetrachloroethylene. The city abandoned its first impacted well in 1998. Other contaminated wells were abandoned as the contaminant plume moved west with the ground water flow. By 2010, the city had only one well that was not impacted by contamination. Woods Cross approached its citizens with several options to deal with the issue. The overwhelming consensus was to completely remove the contamination. The citizens even agreed to increase water rates to pay the costs associated with treating the water. The city asked the Drinking Water Board to help fund a treatment plant to remove the contamination, and the Board authorized $4.5 million for this project.

Like much of the ground water in the West, Gunnison’s drinking water source contains a high level of naturally occurring arsenic. Chronic arsenic poisoning has been linked to heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. It can affect the lungs, skin, liver, and kidneys. In others words, it’s bad for you! Drinking water treatment options may include blending a high arsenic source with a lower arsenic source to reduce the overall level of arsenic to an acceptable level or removing the arsenic via chemical treatment. The Drinking Water Board authorized $3.1 million for Gunnison to build a treatment plant to reduce the arsenic in its drinking water to a level below the maximum contaminant level established by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In each of these cases, the cost to provide a safe, clean source of drinking water was more than the city was able to manage on its own. The Drinking Water Board, through the SRF financial assistance programs, provided a bridge for the city to deal with serious contamination issues and protect human health while striving to keep water rates affordable.

Learn more about DDW’s grants and loan programs for drinking water systems, including how to apply for financial assistance, by visiting our SRF webpages. We are happy to help your city, town, or district get started on the application process.

Michael GrangeI joined DDW in October 2006 and became Section Manager in October 2011. As the Construction Assistance Section Manager, I oversee the financial assistance programs offered by the Division. I earned degrees in Chemical Engineering and Business Administration from the University of Utah. My work experience includes 14 years in the private sector as a laboratory technician, process engineer, and consulting engineer focusing on water and waste water treatment and environmental assessment and remediation.