Tropic officials are hoping to alleviate the town's longtime water shortage by tapping into water sources of the Spring Creek Irrigation Co.

The town has been plagued by a water shortage during recent years - a shortage so serious that drinking water was hauled from other communities, water faucets were turned off at schools and residents boiled water that was obtained from sources other than culinary springs.The city's spring is in Bryce Canyon National Park, but much of the water supply either dried up or was diverted underground to unknown areas. A well was drilled, but tests showed it was contaminated with iron and arsenic.

Plans now call for developing springs at Spring Creek in the hopes that a more immediate source of drinking water can be guaranteed. Work on the project is expected to begin by a private contractor in early September and be completed by mid-October.

The irrigation company's officials have agreed to exchange up to 200 gallons of water per minute for the town's less potable culinary water. Part of the agreement calls for the community to develop the company's springs. It is anticipated that Tropic's regular source of water will provide enough for the town's needs during winter months without infringing on the irrigation company's needs.

Officials are now faced with what to do about the new well that was drilled.

Purity tests from a test hole showed that water from that source would be acceptable. But tests from the well after it was drilled had a different result, showing higher-than-acceptable levels of iron and arsenic.

Tropic officials are now faced with the problem of either conducting further testing that will be expensive or to treat water by a filtration process using manganese and green sand, according to water engineer Phylip Leslie. The testing would involve sealing off sections of the 2,450-foot well. Each section would have to be tested until the source of the contamination could be determined.

And that isn't the end of the problems at the new well.

The water, tested at 96 degrees F., was too hot. After viewing a video that was taken inside the well, geologists believe that water is entering from a volcanic source.

If it can be detected that the hot water source is in the lower part of the well, it could be cemented and sealed off, Leslie said. At higher levels, it would be very difficult, however.

"Arsenic is almost never associated with Navajo sandstone, and no one anticipated it would be a problem," Leslie said. "It appears to me that an entire 300-foot section has a high concentration of iron and arsenic being drawn, most likely, from some remote igneous body through fractures in the sandstone."

It was noted that a well was drilled in a similar formation at the town of Escalante, only 33 miles east of Tropic, which yields 615 gallons per minute of uncontaminated water at a temperature of 66 degrees fahrenheit.