Port Angeles adds water treatment for copper, lead

PORT ANGELES — A water treatment process to reduce copper leeching from plumbing into the city’s drinking water will begin Monday, one week before the deadline mandated by the state Department of Health.

The addition of the chemical — orthophosphate, or phosphoric acid — to the Port Angeles water supply is an interim step that will be taken until the National Park Service’s contractors finish two water treatment plants.

Once the water treatment plants are completed — scheduled dates are 2009 and 2010 — they will take over the process that coats metal pipes to prevent leeching.

“This will reduce copper levels in the water, which was the problem,” said Ernie Klimek, Port Angeles water and sewer superintendent.

“That’s what we’re shooting for with the water treatment plants,” he said.

The city’s water customers will get notification in July’s utility bills.

“We must continue to send those notices until the water treatment plants are built,” Klimek said.

The plants must be finished before two dams on the Elwha River are removed in a project estimated at $315 million.

The removal, expected after 2012, is intended to restore salmon habitat by allowing the river, dammed since 1913, to revert to its natural state.

Adding the chemical to the water will coat the inside of metal pipes used in older homes and reduce the amount of copper and lead that gets into the water from those pipes, he said.

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