New water treatment plan goes live in Vale

A new water treatment plant in Vale uses filters inside of a large blue tank to scrub arsenic from the city’s water supply. The new plant came online last week. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – Vale residents can expect lower arsenic levels in their water along with a $7 water fee hike, now that the city’s new treatment plant is online.

The $7.2 million project is still about a month away from completion, but the new facility began to treat Vale’s water last week.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Katy Lamb, Vale city manager.

Lamb said construction of the new treatment plant – next to the Vale airport – began last spring but it has been in the planning stages for two years.

T. Bailey Inc., a Washington state firm, built the facility.

The project was triggered by a new standard from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to drop arsenic levels in the city’s water by a minuscule amount.

In 2001, the EPA lowered the arsenic standard from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.

The city is still testing the water to determine how well the city is meeting the new standard, according to city water technician Jack McElvary.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said McElvary of the new facility.

The treatment plant uses a sand filtration system inside a large blue tank to extract arsenic. The city’s water comes from four wells next to the treatment facility.

The project was funded through grants from BizOregon, the state economic development agency, and loans.

Local water users have to help cover the cost, too. Lamb said city residents can expect to see the boost on water bills after Jan. 1.

Lamb said work on the project “has been very smooth.”

McElvary said how the water will taste is likely up to the individual drinking it.

“But I would say, yes, it is good water,” said McElvary.