Residents and tourists of Bass Lake, Calif., should enjoy clean, healthy water running from their taps and faucets, now that a new state license will allow the operation of a new treatment system by Water Remediation Technology, LLC (WRT).
The license issued by the California Department of Health Services allows WRT to reduce high and unsafe levels of uranium currently in the water in one of five wells maintained by the town's water provider, Bass Lake Water Company. State officials limited the use of the well about a decade ago, only allowing the company to use it for a total of 15 days a year for emergencies.
"This is a topic of awareness to the community. For health reasons, we wanted to remove the uranium for the sake of our customers," said Bass Lake Water Company president Stephen Welch. "The new treatment system will give everyone a comfort level and will provide us with another source of water that we previously weren't able to use on a steady basis."
WRT's Z-92 system will treat the well water to remove the uranium to an amount that is below the federal Environmental Protection Agency maximum allowable limit. The system, which is designed to be added to any new or existing potable water system, allows water to pass through a series of treatment columns that contain the absorptive Z-92 media, which collects the uranium out of the water.
The current uranium concentration in the well at Bass Lake is roughly 165 ppb (parts per billion). The EPA's guidelines allow for a maximum uranium presence of only 30 ppb. According to the EPA, uranium is naturally present in water, but drinking high amounts of it over a long period of time can cause toxic effects to the kidneys and increase the risk of getting cancer.
The treated water will increase Bass Lake's water supply during the summer months, when tourists come into town to spend their vacations. Welch said the company plans to pump 90,000 gallons of water a day from the well when needed during that time. It typically supplies 115 million gallons of water to residents and tourists annually.
"We have vacation homes, picnic areas, campgrounds, permanent residential homes and a major resort," Welch said. "The system allows us to take a well that was only marginally serviceable and make it available year round when we need it, while simultaneously removing a health threat to our community."
As part of the 20-year contract between WRT and Bass Lake Water Company, WRT will also be responsible for the environmentally safe handling and removal of the uranium from the area to a remote location, preventing any other contamination in the resort town. R.M.D. Operations, LLC, a WRT sister company, will handle the Z-92 media once it has been spent and exchange it with new media. The company, licensed by the California Radiologic Health Branch, will also package and ship the spent media for processing, in which the extracted uranium will be recycled for industrial uses.