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Fairbanks is fortunate to have an abundant supply of fresh water. The Golden Heart Utilities Water Treatment Plant treats this water to provide high quality water to the greater Fairbanks community. Our plant produces nearly 1.3 billion gallons of water annually. In hot dry summer seasons such as we experienced in 2004, the water treatment plant treated 146.3 million gallons of water in the month of June alone.
Our water is pumped from four wells along the Chena River and treated to remove iron and manganese, which affects taste, and causes mild discoloration and staining. Our water supply does not experience the normal contaminants of surface water sources found in many other communities. The chemicals used to treat the water are sodium hypochlorite, ferric sulfate, lime and a polymer.
Because of the arctic environment, the entire treatment process and water storage takes place indoors; 4.7 million gallons of treated water is stored in the "basement" clearwell. Operators at the plant must be certified by the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation at Level III or IV. Level IV is the highest rating attainable in Alaska.
Golden Heart Utilities has undertaken several large projects at our water treatment plant to enhance the environmental sensitivity of our operations.
Since construction of the Fairbanks Water Treatment Plant in 1953, materials removed from the water during the treatment process have been discharged into the Chena River under a permit issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The materials removed from the water are part of the “lime slurry” used to soften the water and coagulate naturally occurring minerals in the water. These minerals primarily include lime, calcium, iron and traces of manganese. These items were not harmful in the quantities discharged into the river. However, the utility installed a dewatering system that prevents approximately 1.5 million pounds of water and solids from being discharged into the Chena River annually. The material produced is used as a soil enhancer during the summer by a local topsoil contractor.
An additional consideration was the safety concerns imposed by the use of gaseous chlorine in the downtown core area of Fairbanks. In order to reduce the potential of a chlorine leak, the utility installed a sodium hypochlorite system. The new system produces a low concentration of disinfectant similar to household bleach, produced from salt and water processed by an electrical current. The material produced is non-toxic and the safety concerns are greatly reduced.