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Most recent testing shows drop in levels of arsenic in city’s water

The results of water testing for the first quarter of 2016 are in and it is good news for city water customers in Cairo.
The level of naturally occurring arsenic in the city’s drinking water supply dropped to 5.6 parts per billion, down from 11 parts per billion in the fourth quarter of 2015.
In January, the city sent notices to its approximately 4,500 water customers notifying them that the arsenic levels had exceeded the allowable maximum of 10 parts per billion.
No such notice is required for the first three months of this year and the latest results put the city’s running annual average at 9.65 parts per billion.
The level of arsenic in city water has been as high as 12 parts per billion in the second quarter of 2015 and the most recent results are the lowest in two years of testing.
“I can’t explain it and there is no guarantee the results for the second quarter will not be higher,” Cairo city manager Chris Addleton told the mayor and council Monday night.
City leaders have known of the potential arsenic issue since approximately 2013, and started taking steps to protect residents then.
For nearly three years, Cairo’s municipal water supply has undergone quarterly testing by the state to determine how much naturally occurring arsenic is seeping into the ground water supply. Although all public water systems test for arsenic, the frequency of testing depends on the water source and test results.
The council awarded a bid in December 2015 to Bates Engineers/Contractors, Inc., of Bainbridge to construct the new treatment plant at the airport at a cost of $4,180,843.
The project is being funded by a loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and city funds invested in the Municipal Competitive Trust.
In October 2014, Cairo Mayor Bobby Burns executed GEFA loan documents for a $3,586,710 low interest loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is a federal loan program administered by GEFA and provides Georgia communities with low-interest loans to fund water infrastructure projects.
GEFA has agreed to forgive $500,000 of the loan, so the city will pay 0.66 percent interest on only $3,086,710 over the next 10 years.
The new treatment plant will be the first in Georgia to have the additional capacity to treat for naturally occurring arsenic found in city drinking water.
Addleton said this week that work is progressing well on the new airport water plant. He also noted that the electric department has already set poles on Airport Road to accommodate the three phase power for the plant.
“The remaining electric underground lines and water main are scheduled to be complete by September,” Addleton said.
The contract with Bates Engineers/Contractors, Inc., of Bainbridge calls for the plant to be completed by Dec. 11, 2016
The city’s water source is located near the southern edge of the Gulf Trough, an area of the Floridan aquifer that contains elevated levels of arsenic.

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