Experts say costly UI water project is unncessary


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Whether it comes from a faucet, a plastic bottle, or a motion-sensor fountain, the water in Iowa City is safe to drink.

And one expert said the addition of another filtration system is unnecessary.

University of Iowa Student Government leaders and Office of Sustainability officials will meet next week to discuss the possibilities of adding additional water-filtration systems on campus, despite officials from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the University of Iowa saying the project is unnecessary.

The UI is exploring two filtration systems, such as the Elkay EZH2O bottle fillers and the retro fitting device, which further filter out the taste, odor, and color of the potable water. The Elkay bottle fillers already exist in most dorm buildings on campus, and they run from $2,100 to $2,700, plus installation costs, UISG sustainability-initiatives director Kelsey Zlevor said.

The total cost of this project and the number of fountains planning to be installed will not be determined until after the meeting.

Dennis Alt, the supervisor of the Natural Resources’s water supply engineering section, did not have a personal opinion on whether the university should install additional filtration systems for its water fountains. However, he said, those filtration systems do not reflect the quality of the state’s water.

The Natural Resources’s primary job, when concerning water quality, is to deal with eliminating bacteria and viruses to ensure water safety and portability and protect public health, he said.

Scott Slee, the manager of the UI water plant, which meets all standards, said he doesn’t think the additional filtration systems for the water fountains are necessary.

“[The filtration systems] are not necessary, but it’s being preferred by those trying to sell it,” Slee said. “I think they’re worried about taste. It doesn’t really hurt anything.”

The Natural Resources said in its annual public drinking water program’s compliance report more than 2.6 million Iowans received safe drinking water in 2010.

“Basically the report is saying that almost all the time the water is safe throughout the state of Iowa,” Alt said. “There are some exceptions when systems periodically exceed the drinking water standards, and the public is at risk.”

Violations were issued to 1,966 public water supplies throughout the state. More than 100 public water supply systems in Johnson County alone incurred violations.

Despite that number, Alt said there were no reported monitoring violations in Coralville and Iowa City and at the UI.

“They have no [maximum contaminant level], or drinking water standard violations,” Alt said. “So the water is considered safe.”

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