Kingman exceeds federal standards with low arsenic levels

Kingman's water supply tests below the arsenic levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We are fortunate that groundwater in the Hualapai Basin Aquifer contains very low levels of arsenic well below the standards set by EPA," Scott Yocum, Kingman utilities superintendent, said.

"None of the city wells have ever tested higher than 0.05 and the standard set is 0.10."

The 0.05 figure is five parts arsenic per billion (ppb) and the standard is 10 ppb.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA reduced the allowable level from 50 ppb to 10 ppb in October 2001.

The EPA estimates 4,100 systems nationwide must treat water to meet the new standard.

About 97 percent of those are small systems serving fewer than 10,000 people.

The EPA expects the tougher standard to affect water systems primarily in the West where arsenic occurs naturally.

New Mexico officials estimate as many as 114 water systems may need treatment with Albuquerque the largest system that could need improvement.

Yocum said it is his understanding that Scottsdale shut down two wells that tested high enough to need treatment.

"The problem gets complicated when a well needs treatment," he said.

"The process leaves a briny hazardous material that is difficult to dispose of."

The processing of the water and the disposal of the brine can be costly, especially if an ion exchange filtering option is needed.

In some areas in New Mexico, rural water systems would have to triple charges to customers.

Sen.

Pete Domenici, R-N.M., has introduced legislation that would provide $1.9 billion to help small community water systems meet the new standard.

The EPA policy follows a National Academy of Science report that small amounts of arsenic in drinking water cause four to 10 deaths from bladder or lung cancer per 10,000 people.

Paul Ritzma, deputy secretary of the New Mexico Environmental Department, said department officials know of no illnesses directly related to arsenic in drinking water.