Hastings Water Bills Rise due to Nitrate Problem - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Hastings Water Bills Rise due to Nitrate Problem

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Water rates jump in Hastings and it's a sign of things to come as the city addresses high nitrate and uranium levels.

"We continue to see nitrates increase in our groundwater," Hastings Utilities Director Marv Schultes said.

If left unchecked, in two short years Hastings wouldn't have enough clean water for customers, as nitrates, believed to have traveled from farms, continue into the water supply.

Schultes said, "All the studies we've done on it show it looks like that's going to continue and we have to do something to keep the water under the required parts per billion."

Hastings Utilities recently took the first steps to address it, buying land for a $45 million project.

"We've been working on a process to figure out what the solution is, it's a very difficult solution, a very expensive solution, a very challenging solution," Schultes explained.

They invite farmers to be part of the solution, as they work with local natural resources districts and offer incentives to farmers who monitor soil and water.  

Schultes said, "Get some help from them if we can because it's a major challenge for the community."

Little Blue Water Specialist Daryl Andersen previously told NTV they want to work with farmers, and even have programs to share costs.

He said, "It's an evil that nobody wants to do, is more regulation, but we emphasize the education side of it. We want to educate people that we're regulating not because we want to but sometimes you've got to get everybody on the same page."  

And some farmers could benefit from the process to remove nitrates.

Marv Schultes said, "The idea would be to pump the top, the high nitrates, and use that to irrigate farm ground, farm ground needs high nitrates anyway."

But as the $45 million price for the project suggests, it's not cheap and that's why water bills are going up.  

Schultes said, "Water rates increased by 12 percent January 1, 2014 and we look for that trend to continue as we continue with treatment of water."

Uranium levels have also been rising. The project should alleviate that along with the nitrates.  

"It's a huge problem, a huge challenge for all of us in the area, and it takes the cooperation of all parties involved to try to keep the water safe for people to drink," Schultes said.

At their January meeting, the Board of Public Works approved a land agreement on Baltimore Avenue in Hastings, the first of several steps in the project.

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