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Tropic officials are attacking a longtime culinary water shortage with a two-pronged project. Instead of taking an option on two proposed projects, they plan to complete both.

Officials have decided to seal off a portion of the bottom of a new well where they believe contamination is entering. They also are proceeding on a project to develop a new spring.The community has suffered from the lack of culinary water for several years during a drought period in which the normal water source in Bryce Canyon National Park nearly dried up or was lost underground. That's when it was decided to drill a new water well.

A test well showed the water to be of good quality. But when the production well was drilled, the water contained too much arsenic and iron. It was also exceptionally warm - 96 degrees. Officials decided to develop springs in an area owned by the Spring Creek Irrigation Co. in exchange for up to 200 gallons per minute of less potable community water.

But Mayor Bob Bradley and the City Council didn't give up on the idea of sealing off the well in an effort to eliminate the contaminants.

Phyllip Leslie of Leslie and Associates in Cedar City, an engineering firm that has been working with Tropic officials to solve the water woes, said he expects both projects to be completed in about two months.

Work will begin soon to seal the well at a cost of about $40,000, Leslie said.

Development of the springs has begun under a contract with Interstate Rock of Hurricane at a cost of more than $400,000. The company will get $258,930 for spring development and installing transmission pipelines. Valve stations, pressure-reducing valves and installation of 16,500 feet of six- and eight-inch transmission lines are also included in the contract.

It will cost an additional $151,520 for a 500-gallon storage tank.

Community officials also have another problem. The present spring is producing much less than the 200 gallons per minute specified in the agreement, and there is no additional water to trade. However, they expect water to be available without using the irrigation company's source during winter months when it is not needed for irrigation. That would decrease the amount required for the tradeoff.

Leslie said the effort to seal the well is not guaranteed to solve the problem, but engineers and geologists are reasonably confident of success. It will also be less costly than treating the water through filtering systems.

Engineers will use a balloon-type procedure so that sections of the well can be isolated for testing.

Tropic's water problems have been so serious that water has been hauled from other communities, fountains were turned off at the schools and water that had to be boiled was pumped from the Paria River. Some homes were periodically without water.

The spring generally produced about 90 gallons of water per minute but fell to about 25 gallons per minute a year ago.

The town has a long-term debt yet to be amortized for the now inadequate water system. Payments of $700 per months have been made on a 40-year loan that won't be paid off for more than 25 years.

Financing for the new projects was obtained mostly through grants and interest-free loans.