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Longview Continues the Search for New Drinking Water Source

December 15, 2015

The city of Longview, Wash. began drilling a series of test wells Monday along the Cowlitz River to search for a new drinking water source.  

The city is considering whether to pursue a new well system, which would allow it to once again obtain drinking water from the Cowlitz River.

“It’s really driven by our customers,” said Amy Blain, a project engineer with the city of Longview. “They’re unhappy with our current water source.”

In January 2013, Longview began to get its water from ground wells.

“Predominantly, the complaint is related to silica,” Blain said. “People tend to get white scale and deposit that builds up on their appliances and glassware.”

Prior to the ground wells, the city of Longview got its water from the Cowlitz River. But it had to stop because the process posed threats to endangered fish. Heavy deposits of volcanic sediment from Mount St. Helens would also wash into the river at times and gum up the city’s water treatment plant.

In August, a citizen’s group recommended that the city look into installing a Ranney well system. A few weeks later, the Longview city council approved the feasibility study.

Ranney wells look a little like a massive, horizontal bicycle tire. A series of long pipes run out of the well like spokes, helping draw water into a relatively shallow main well in the center.

The way the water is collected can prefilter it, helping naturally treat the water, said Henry Hunt, a senior project manager at Layne Christensen Co.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest from utilities that previously had been surface water users,” he said.

Several cities in Oregon and Washington use the Ranney wells, including Kalama, Kelso, Woodland, Port Angeles, St. Helens and Boardman.

Hunt said the first well was installed in London in 1933. The first one in the U.S. was installed in 1936 in Ohio.

Longview’s current drinking water comes out of an aquifer that many residents say they’re fearful of using. While city officials say the water is safe to drink and use, the wells aren’t far from the site of an old aluminum factory and other industry, like a pulp and paper mill.

Blain said the current study and water testing could cost $400,000.

She said the city would know sometime in late summer whether it will move forward with new wells along the Cowlitz.  

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Crews in Longview, Wash., drilled a series of test wells Monday along the Cowlitz River in southwest Washington. The city is looking for a possible new source for its drinking water.

Conrad Wilson

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