Ask Joe: How well does Fernley water plant purify city's drinking water?

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From the Ask Joe file, I am following up on a question about the water rate increase in Fernley.

Residents in Fernley have a lot of questions on this topic, and many of them are venting on Facebook about it. Some of them are venting at me, but that's okay; I have a thick skin and I'll do my best to address their concerns.

In fact there is a Fernley Community Chat Site on Facebook where the issue seems to be a hot topic. But aside from the financial questions, some are asking whether the water is safe and how well the treatment plant is working.

Here's what I found out:

A little background here -- construction on the water treatment plant started in 2007, and the plant was built, at a price tag of $50 million, because there are high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the ground water in Fernley.

The old limit was 50 micrograms of arsenic per liter of water, but that's been lowered to 10 micrograms per liter, which is the federal standard.

The treatment plant uses a three-step process to filter the arsenic out of the water and bring it into compliance. So who monitors this?

I checked with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. They do monitor the water quality and publish the results on their website.

Jo Ann Kitrell at NDEP says the water coming out of the plant and going into the drinking supply contains 3 to 4 micrograms per liter of arsenic, and that is well below the 10 micrograms per liter allowed by federal law.

So Kitrell says there are no concerns about excessive arsenic levels coming out of the water treatment plant in Fernley.

I also reached out to Fernley officials about this. I called the public works director and emailed city manager Daphne Hooper, but I did not hear back from them before my deadline for this story.

As I said there are a lot of questions going around about water and financing for the treatment plant in Fernley. I'll do my best to tackle more of them in the future.

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