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Alaska Residents Get Creative with Water Filtration

As the direct result of petroleum contamination, “North Pole,” Alaska residents have been forced to “think outside the box” when it comes to their water supply. Thanks to a combination of readily available commercial water filtration technologies, these citizens have successfully lowered the level toxic contaminants to non-detectable levels. It seems that over the past decade, sulfolane, a chemical used in the refinement of oil, had been seeping into groundwater and private water wells. While the exact cause of the contamination is yet to be determined, the most likely cause is a gasoline spill which occurred within the town limits over a decade ago. The contamination was discovered recently, and has been detected in hundreds of homes in the area, at readings between 50 ppb and 250 ppb – levels above federally recommended concentrations, but not enough to make laboratory animals sick. In response to this problem, Flint Hills Resources, the firm which in 2004 bought the refinery responsible for the spills has developed some innovating solutions. By partnering with Fairbanks-based “Ecowater Systems,” Flint Hills Resources has conceived a point-of-entry water filtration unit to address the problem. In this unit, the contaminated water is first processed by sediment filter. Secondly, it is softened using a standard ion-exchange system. Next, a hydrogen peroxide pump breaks down the sulfolane, after which point a combination mixing chamber and charcoal filter gives the drinking water a final clean. The system has so far been successfully been implemented in 5 “test homes” in the area. Flint Hills Resources, which is currently providing bottled water to affected residents hopes to implement similar water filtration systems in more than 150 homes within the next few months.

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