Hastings Looks for Ways to Tackle Nitrates

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The water in Hastings has a problem: its nitrate levels are approaching the EPA's maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per million.

But Hastings Utilities Customer Relations Coordinator Steve Cogley says it's not there yet.

"Within the last 20 years the average nitrate level in our local water supplies with our water wells was around 4.7 parts per million and now it exceeds 7 parts/million," says Cogley.

But he says it's important for people to remember that they aren't in danger and that water standards are closely monitored.

"The water that we're distributing to our customers is absolutely safe to drink," Cogley says.

However, Cogley says nitrates have been gradually building up over the past couple of decades, and he says studies indicate those levels will keep growing.

"We see the higher nitrate water moving right toward Hastings, and I mean we're almost the center of the bullseye so to speak," he says.

So the city is having a study done to give them options for lowering those levels.

"At the moment we do not treat our water supplies before we distribute them to our customers, it's just natural water from the Ogallala Aquifer," says Cogley.

The city isn't the only group interested in those study results. The Upper Big Blue NRD and Little Blue NRD have formed an interlocal agreement with Hastings to help fund the water study.

"We felt that we should be involved in that because it may provide valuable information we could then pass on to other communities in our district who have similar problems with nitrate issues," says Rod DeBuhr, Upper Big Blue's Water Department Manager.

He and Cogley hope the study finds more cost-effective options for Hastings besides building a large multi-million dollar treatment system.

One possibility would involve mixing less contaminated water into highly contaminated wells, or even diluting the source.

"Actually pump out, treat some water from some of our higher nitrate wells, then reinject that lower nitrate water back into the aquifer," says Cogley.

But Hastings won't know what their options are until they get preliminary study results in next month or so.