- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

VALE, Ore. (AP) - Two Eastern Oregon towns are struggling with drinking water that has too much arsenic.

In one, Vale, city officials say that a demonstration plant built in 2005 to deal with arsenic isn’t up to snuff, the Ontario Argus Observer (http://bit.ly/WPoYEw ) reports.

In the other town, Nyssa (NIS’-uh), design work is underway for a $6 million plant it hopes will bring the arsenic levels into compliance.

Federal regulations put a limit of about 10 parts per billion on arsenic, which is widely distributed in the earth. Both towns are well above the compliance threshold, although levels have fluctuated. Vale has gone through some periods where it met the standard.

In Vale, the plant built with help from the Environmental Protection Agency has given the city problems.

Two wells that contribute the most arsenic have been shut down, along with the plant.

The city of about 2,000 people has been spending $5,000 a month to wash the filters, which get clogged with mineral salts known as sulfates.

“It was not removing the arsenic,” said City Manager Lynn Findley.

The city has a $150,000 state grant to plan for improving the water system, and it has an agreement with the Oregon Health Authority to take care of the arsenic problem.

“We’ve got to be working through the process,” Findley said. “We will fix this.”

Nearby Nyssa is a city of about 3,300 people along the Idaho border. Its most recent arsenic reading was lower than Vale’s but still out of compliance.

City Manager Roberta Vanderwall said design work is underway on a $6 million treatment plant, and environmental assessments are ahead.

The plant would be built on the Idaho side of the river, where the city already has its main water storage tank.

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Information from: Argus Observer, http://www.argusobserver.com

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