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New groundwater management area to be discussed at Aug. 30 meeting in Sunnyside

The Washington Department of Ecology is considering a request by Yakima County to develop a groundwater management program to address elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water from wells in the Lower Yakima Valley.

Proposed boundaries for the Lower Valley Groundwater Management Area extend from Union Gap to Benton City, outside of the Yakama Reservation, and comprise about 512 square miles.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found 21 percent of some 337 Lower Valley wells sampled for nitrate were at levels greater than federal drinking water standards.

Infants under six months of age, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations may suffer ill health effects due to nitrate contaminated water.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 30, in the Denny Blaine Board Room of the Sunnyside School District, located at 810 E. Custer Ave.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. with an informational open house, followed at 6 p.m. by a brief presentation and question and answer session. The formal public hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m., when both verbal and written comments will be accepted.

Comments also may be submitted in writing to Charlie McKinney, Department of Ecology, 15 W. Yakima Ave., Suite 200, Yakima, WA 98902; Attn: GWMA proposal. Or via email: gwma@ecy.wa.gov. Comments will be accepted until Thursday, Sept. 22.

A copy of the Lower Yakima Valley proposal may be reviewed online at: http://www.yakimacounty.us/NitrateProgram/, click on the Groundwater Management Area tab.

Chapter 173-100 of the Washington Administrative Code provides criteria and procedures for designating geographic areas and developing programs where groundwater quality is threatened or degraded as a result of land use activities.

If and when a groundwater management area is designated, the department will appoint members and alternates to a groundwater advisory committee as outlined in the code. More information about groundwater management areas is available online at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/wac173100.html.

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