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October 20, 2003

Professor says process could clean G.I. wells
by Associated Press

For area homeowners dealing with contaminated water wells, cleaning up the water could be done by calling a plumber, one expert said.

Industrial contaminants that have been found in about 50 private Grand Island water wells can be removed through a process called "stripping," said Roy Spalding, professor of agriculture and horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Stripping is a process of spraying contaminated water up into the air - usually inside a tower - which causes the contaminants to separate from the water in the form of a gas that escapes into the atmosphere.

Such stripping towers often are seen at Superfund cleanup sites, said Spalding, who has been involved in several groundwater cleanup projects throughout Nebraska.

"In Hastings, we went out and did some experiments with center pivots, and the EPA accepted that as a method for removal because we took the concentrations from almost a thousand parts per billion down to five parts per billion," he said.

The contaminant levels found in the Grand Island wells are relatively low and could easily be treated through the stripping process, Spalding said.

However, Spalding said he has never seen the stripping process used on such a small scale as an individual home.

"I suppose if you had a good plumber, it wouldn't be too difficult to do," he said.

Officials have advised residents of at least 50 homes in southwest Grand Island not to use their tap water for drinking, dishwashing, showering or bathing because the water could give off toxic vapors.

Help is on the way for those residents. City officials recently cleared the way to extend water lines to the neighborhood. And the residents will not have to pay for the extension.

A Case New Holland combine manufacturing plant, which is being studied as a possible source of the contamination, will pay for installing city water mains and service lines.

The company, however, insists it is not the source of the industrial pollution.

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