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Pocatello city council to decide how much money should flow toward nixing phosphorus from water

POCATELLO, Idaho - The city of Pocatello needs a water upgrade to meet EPA standards, in an effort to eliminate the amount of phosphorus being released into the rivers.

Water Pollution Control director Jon Herrick oversees more than one million gallons of the city's water supply everyday. He said, with the current water disinfecting system being more than 30 years old, it can only get rid of so much phosphorus.

"Last year's average data was 13 pounds per day that we discharged and our limit is 25 pounds, but we did have several days where we were over 200 pounds," Herrick said.

Although the amount of phosphorus popping up depends on the weather elements, Herrick said the new improvements to the current system will eliminate a lot of the excess phosphorus making it safer for both the residents and the aquatic life. 

Herrick said they will first look to optimize the current process by adding some more chemicals to the water in order to better clean it.

"We're going to add some chemicals, probably some alum, and that will allow the finer particles of phosphorus to be removed," he said.

Next, they will modify some of the existing aeration tanks to make them more reliable.

In addition, and probably the coolest aspect of these new improvements to the liquid treatment process is the implementation of an ultraviolet disinfection system which will take light bulbs and rearrange the DNA of the harmful particles so they can't seep back into the water stream and reproduce.

"The ultraviolet is a better process. It's a lot safer for the public and the river quality," Herrick said.

After being treated, the water flows into the Portneuf River, the Snake River, and in through the American Falls Reservoir. 

He also mentioned they will target big businesses within the community who are major contributors to the production of phosphorus by charging them.

For taxpayers, he said the rate fluctuation will depend on how much the total project will end up costing in the end, but doesn't expect it to be much.

On Thursday the city council will look at an agreement proposal to contract a partnership with HDR Engineering for $2 million  for the WPC Phosphorus Improvement project.

By the end of this past year the dept. had to have an updated facility plan for the plant and by the end of this year they have to have a design drawn up. By the end of 2016, they have to have a contractor to build the new improvements and have it built. By December 2017, they face their ultimate deadline to have met all of the EPA limit requirements.

Herrick said the last major renovation project was done in 2004, on an $11.5 million project to remove ammonia nitrogen from the waste water. 

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