A joint arsenic removal facility would benefit Mustang and Yukon, Jay Adams, Central Oklahoma Water Resource Authority chairman, said.
“One of the things we can’t afford to neglect is doing long-range planning to make sure our communities have access to water,” he said.
According to the World Health Organization, arsenic, which is a chemical element commonly found in sulfur and metals, is typically found in groundwater throughout the U.S., posing a public health risk. Long-term exposure to arsenic primarily causes skin lesions and skin cancer.
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If Mustang and Yukon had a joint facility treatment that reached all wells, they could essentially be each other’s backup.
“If something catastrophic happened to Mustang’s wells, Yukon could provide water to Mustang and vice versa,” Adams said.
The former Mustang mayor has been with COWRA for about 11 years.
“We cannot survive without water,” Adams said. “Water is our most precious resource.”
COWRA met with Mustang and Yukon officials at its June 18 meeting to discuss what both cities would like to move forward with.
“COWRA feels like we’ve reached our end goal of coming up with a viable solution for everybody to start working with for a 50-year plan,” Adams said.
There was no response from either city, he said. Both indicated they would discuss the plan with their councils.
Although Mustang continues to meet its water demands currently, Assistant City Manager Justin Battles said the joint facility is a possibility in the future.
A joint facility would be about $21 million. Individual facilities would be $7 million.
Joint facilities are more expensive, due to additional piping that must reach a centralized location.
Adams said there are not many towns that go in with each other for a joint facility and is unaware of one in Oklahoma.
“With unique concepts comes a lot of unique challenges,” Adams said.
Yukon City Manager Tammy Kretchmar said she is open to having discussions with Mustang about the possibility of a joint facility.
If both cities could treat all the wells, they would also not have to purchase as much water from Oklahoma City to blend with their own, although Adams recommends keeping the city as a backup.
“You always have your Plan A, Plan B and Plan C in your pocket and have Plan D in your safe just in case,” Adams said.
It would leave both cities to focus on purchasing Oklahoma City water for high level needs, he added.
Of its 13 wells, Mustang currently has two arsenic filtration systems for two and 12, which had been out of commission, due to high levels in the water.
The city has been cycling the two wells into service as needed this year. Battles said the systems have been working well, with weekly reports indicating zero levels of arsenic.
It increases production value up to a million gallons per day, he said.
Yukon began looking into an arsenic removal pilot program with Garver, an engineering, planning, architectural and environmental services firm, about 18 months ago. It would be similar to Mustang’s arsenic filtration system, Kretchmar said.
While Yukon has 15 wells, they currently use eight, as the remaining seven are not typically used, due to high levels of arsenic.
The city has never treated its wells for arsenic before.
Aquifer map to potentially be reanalyzed
Mustang and Yukon pull water from the Garber-Wellington Aquifer, which is essentially a giant underground lake. Canadian, Cleveland and Logan counties sit on top of the aquifer in central Oklahoma.
A map indicates the aquifer stops at Canadian County’s border, which Adams said may not be completely accurate.
“Most lakes that you see on top of the ground aren’t going to stop based on a political jurisdiction,” Adams said. “They’re going to flow wherever it allows them to.”
Another discussion COWRA had regarded legislators and the local water resources board working together to conduct a study about where water stops flowing near Canadian County. Recently, legislation passed saying cities that own property over an aquifer, also have water rights. Oklahoma City basically sits right on top of the aquifer, so they have a lot of water rights, Adams said.
Mustang does not purchase any water rights from Oklahoma City at this time. The city’s water rights were sewn up in the 1960s, 70’s, 80’s and some in the early 90’s.
They pay $3 per 1,000 gallons of water from Oklahoma City for blending.
“The only thing we’re looking at is some additional wells in the oilfield five or six years down the road,” Battles said.
Yukon pays Oklahoma City $2.44 per 1,000 gallons for blending purposes, as well. In water rights, the city annually pays Oklahoma City .60 per 1,000 gallons plus $100 per well site.
“It would save us money for not having to buy additional water rights later on in the future when we need to extract more water when our population continues to grow,” Adams said.
De-salination ‘not feasible’ for county
In 2015, COWRA collaborated with a de-salination company out of Texas to see if Canadian County wells could be treated by removing salt. However, the test wells were extremely salty, Adams said.
Areas of the ocean are about 8,000 parts per billion. The wells in the county were around 10,000 parts per billion, which could be due to being near where oil was drilled, Adams said.