Environmental Protection

New Treatment Plant to Remove Arsenic, Uranium from Benkelman Water

Baseline Engineering has completed the master planning, design, engineering, funding, and construction documents for a 600-gallons-per-minute water treatment plant.

Baseline Engineering is ready to break ground on a project the firm has been working on since 2007 to remove arsenic and uranium from Benkelman, Nebraska's drinking water. The town has a population of about 1,000 people, according to the 2000 census.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently lowered the arsenic standard for drinking water to 10 parts per billion and the uranium standard to 30 parts per billion. As the compliance deadline passed, many small community water systems went out of compliance. Benkelman is a classic case of a water system that met the old standards, but couldn't meet the new ones.

John McLain, senior project manager at Baseline, said his firm looked for another source of water, performed a blending analysis, and actually drilled a new well, but after additional analysis, the team discovered that the water also exceeded standards. "At that point, you have to start looking at treatment options," McLain said. "Benkelman's needs were unique because their water is unique. The well water is high in silica for one thing, and that makes treatment tricky."

Numerous best available control technologies have been approved for arsenic and uranium treatment, but choosing the correct one takes special care. "We went through a lot of 'what if scenarios,'" McLain said. "For example, what if we adjusted the pH of the water? Could we remove both constituents with one treatment technology?"

Benkelman is getting a new centralized water treatment facility, which is expected to break ground in the spring.

"Water treatment plants are not inexpensive, but we utilize and compare about a half dozen funding sources typically. We actually combined two sources of grants for this project." McLain said. "To receive grant monies, timing and the way the application is written is paramount."

Baseline has completed the master planning, design, engineering, funding, construction documents for a 600-gallons-per-minute water treatment plant. The plant will use a coagulation-filtration unit to remove arsenic and then remove the uranium with an ion-exchange filter.

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