I recently took part in a water tour put on by Hastings, NE city utilities. They took board members of the Little Blue NRD and the Upper Big Blue NRD to look at the pollution control facility, lagoons, power plant, some of the city wells and a local feedyard. We were also given many maps of known contaminated areas of our ground water and the direction these waters are moving. We were informed of the projects in place to help clean up some of these problem areas. Most of these contaminated areas were done by industries before we knew better .
One big problem that just started to show is a high nitrate issue from over application of nitrogen by farmers decades ago, again before we knew better. It has taken some 50 years for this problem to show up and I expect it will take another 50 years of good faming practices for the problem to go away. That leads to the question; what do we do while we are cleaning up this problem?
I have to give the city high marks in their efforts to solve the problem reasonably. We know the problem is on the surface of the aquifer. So one of the things they are testing is a well to see if they can separate the high nitrates from the low. They put two pumps in the same hole using only the lower well for drinking water. The water from the upper part of the well could be used for irrigation water or other industrial uses if this test works out.
If low cost tests with reasonable approaches like this are not successful, water treatment plants will have to be put in place at a cost between $52 and $72 million. Keep in mind this is a relatively small community with the water system serving between 25-30,000, depending on how far out they reach to help other smaller communities in the county with quality issues.
I find this as a very expensive solution but how can we ever put a price on clean water? Now that we know better, let’s take care on our water. Clean water is “priceless”