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Tribe to build own arsenic treatment plant

Becky Bosshart

The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe will build its own $1 million arsenic water treatment plant on the reservation colony, a tribal administrator said Thursday.

The plans were put on hold for a few months because the price tag exceeded the budget, but Tribal Administrative Director Larry Curley said the money has come through, and construction will begin soon.

“The (Indian Health Service) is going ahead, and they are planning on implementing the project later this summer,” he said.

The tribe had considered running its water to the city of Fallon’s arsenic treatment plant, instead of building another facility on its colony nearer to Fallon. Tribal Chairman Alvin Moyle has said in council meetings that the IHS and the building contractors encouraged the tribe to hook up with the city, but he said the council has favored constructing its own.

Moyle cited reasons such as increased rates from the city that would exceed what some reservations residents could afford.

In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered all governing bodies in the county to construct plans for treating the public water. The tribe, the city and Naval Air Station Fallon pump drinking water from a basalt aquifer, which contains high levels of naturally occurring arsenic. NAS Fallon will run its water out to the city’s treatment plant, which opens Tuesday.

George Pringle, district engineer for the Phoenix -area IHS, said the budget for the project is $1.7 million. The EPA contributed $338,000, and the IHS covered the rest. It will pay for a year of operation then the tribe must assume the cost.

Western Summit Constructors of Denver, which constructed the city’s plant, will build the 40-by-70-foot steel plant for the tribe to treat one half-million gallons a day.

Pringle said the option of the tribe sending its water to the city for treatment was considered, but the decision was ultimately up to the tribe.