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Taste-winning North Platte water meets safety standards

April 7, 2018 GMT

North Platte is one of a few cities that do not need to chlorinate their water to kill bacteria, according to Chris Holley, city water protection specialist. He said that is an important reason the water tastes as good as it does.

At a state American Water Works Association Conference in Kearney in November, North Platte water won a blind taste test, Holley said. One of the samples “actually tasted like pond water,” Holley said. “We won by a landslide. That’s how good this water is.”

The 2017 water quality report for North Platte was released this week. According to the report, in 2017 there were no violations of the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Holley said there are 13 drinking water wells and the city is divided into zones for testing.

One potential contaminant is coliform, which is an indicator that other harmful bacteria may be present, Holley said. He said the city tests for it every week, drawing samples from houses in the different zones. He said that if coliform is found, they test houses “upstream” and “downstream,” depending on the water flow direction, to see if the city piping has coliform.

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“It rarely does,” Holley said.

He said that if there is a positive test they test again two days later. If necessary, “we super-chlorinate the pipes in that house, to make sure the “bugs” (bacteria) are killed,” he said.

The water quality report gives test results for 12 chemicals that are listed in parts per million or parts per billion, depending on the potential harm they could cause. One part per million is equal to one ounce in 62,500 pounds, and one part per billion is equal to one ounce in 62.5 million pounds.

The city tests regularly for high nitrate levels in the water, which can result from the use of fertilizers on crops such as corn. If fertilizer or irrigation rates are too high, nitrogen, in the form of nitrates, can leach below the root zone and end up in the groundwater and public water supply.

According to the report, the highest nitrate reading from a North Platte drinking water well in 2017 was 6.59 parts per million. Although that is far below the threshold level of 10 parts per million, Holley said that well is tested frequently to make sure a problem does not develop. If necessary, the city would abandon the well and drill another one, Holley said.

The lowest nitrate reading from North Platte wells in 2017 was 0.341 parts per million; the maximum allowable level is about 30 times that amount.

Is bottled water from the store better than our tap water? Holley said some bottled water actually is tap water, drawn from a source that may not be of the high quality that we have in North Platte.

“We’re looking out for you. If there was anything wrong, you guys (residents) would be the first to know about it,” he said.

The report can be found online at ci.north-platte.ne.us/water-quality-report.