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State is monitoring arsenic in public water supply

The city of Cairo’s public water system is one of 35, primarily in southwest Georgia, that is being monitored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division due to levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the city’s water supply, but Cairo officials say there is no cause for alarm.
Eight of the 35 public water systems identified by the state EPD have arsenic levels higher than 10 parts per billion, but Cairo is among the 27 public water systems with detectable levels that are below the allowable level.
“There is no reason for concern. This is naturally occurring arsenic and the state EPD is testing our water quarterly to monitor it,” City Manager Chris Addleton said this week.
According to Addleton, the state has been studying detectable arsenic in public water systems in the southwestern section of the state since 2002.
State officials are looking into the influence of the Gulf Trough which lies below many of the water systems under study. The Gulf Trough was produced by a marine current that was active from the middle Eocene period through the early Oligocene period. It is characterized by dense, low-permeability, deep-water limestones. EPD scientists believe the Gulf Trough is a factor in the “mobilization of the arsenic into the ground water.”
According to EPD, studies in Florida have identified naturally occurring arsenic in the Suwannee Limestone or Upper Floridan aquifer, which the city’s wells pull from.
EPD has been testing the city’s water once a quarter for the past three years, according to the city manager.
The city is taking a proactive measure and is designing the new water plant to be constructed at the Cairo Municipal Airport with treatment capabilities to treat the city’s water for arsenic.
“Right now, we are below EPD specifications, but they could decide to lower those specs. We want to be able to treat the water for arsenic if we have to,” Addleton said.
Once the new water plant is completed and on line, the city manager says the #2 water plant on MacIvor Drive N.E. will be refurbished and treatment capabilities added to that water plant as well.
Currently, the city’s water is supplied by three wells located near the #2 water plant in northeast Cairo.
“We’ve had our eggs in one basket for way too long. We need a duplicate system and, hopefully, we will begin construction on the new water plant later this year,” Addleton said.
Engineers are currently designing the water plant and the city manager hopes within the next three months to bid for a test well to be drilled at the airport site.
City officials are hopeful that sufficient water supply will be found at the airport location. The city previously dug a test well at the Land Application Sewer system property off of Wight Road, but sufficient volume was not achieved and naturally occurring arsenic was detected in water from the test well.
The city manager points out that this is not just a local issue, but arsenic in water wells has been detected all over southwest Georgia.
“I recently read where a private well in Thomas County was over the limit for naturally occurring arsenic. We are planning ahead to treat for it if the levels increase or if the standards are made more restrictive,” Addleton said.
The city manager predicts in the future the city will have to treat for the arsenic and notes that it is an expensive proposition.
Addleton says the rehabilitation of the water plant and ground storage tank at the Energy Services complex should be completed by the end of this month and work will move on to the new airport water plant.

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