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More funds on the way for groundwater program

The Lower Valley is getting a helping hand from multiple sources to fund work on improving the area's nitrate-tainted groundwater.

In 2011 the area received $500,000 in state funds with help from Sen. Jim Honeyford to purchase new water filtration devices for homes with poor water quality.

This past Tuesday, the Lower Valley received another $300,000 when Yakima County commissioners signed an agreement with the Department of Ecology to form a groundwater management area.

On top of that, Honeyford has helped the area receive another $450,000 in state capital funds that will also be designated for supporting Lower Valley groundwater needs.

That's according to Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott, who says the action he and other commissioners took this week will allow Yakima County to serve as a lead agency for the recently appointed groundwater management committee.

Elliott says the committee will hold its first meeting in the next six to seven weeks and at that time will decide how the new funds will be spent.

He notes the committee's work will likely take several years, both in determining the sources of nitrate contamination in rural Lower Valley groundwater as well as developing steps to address the problem.

"The committee will have a say in how the money is spent, but I could see part of the money go for a half-time employee to help administer and keep the project moving," Elliott said. He added that another possible use for the funds could be periodic well testing to determine changes in groundwater quality and nitrate levels.

While the committee will develop proposals to eliminate nitrate from the Lower Valley's groundwater, Elliott says any legislative recommendations the group makes will require approval by state or county elected officials.

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