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Yellowstone works to solve arsenic in Old Faithful water

Associated Press

JACKSON, Wyo. – Tests have indicated slightly elevated levels of arsenic in the drinking water supply at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, and a park official says visitors are in no danger.

More recent tests of the water show the arsenic levels have improved to safe levels and Yellowstone officials are working on making sure the problem doesn’t come up again, park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said.

“Based on those samples and tests, we know that right now we are well under the limit,” she said. “We understand there is really no short-term danger for visitors, but we also recognize that there is the potential for long-term danger if the issue is not corrected, and we are working to correct it now.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week said in a notice that samples from the Old Faithful water system had found arsenic levels at 0.011 milligrams per liter. The maximum level of arsenic allowed is 0.010 milligrams per liter.

The noncompliant samples were gathered from the second quarter of 2015 through the first quarter of 2016, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.

Kimberly Pardue-Welch, the EPA’s regional team leader for the drinking water enforcement program, said that she’s not sure of the particulars of Yellowstone’s situation but that oftentimes arsenic is a natural byproduct of geology.

The Old Faithful water system is fed by a surface intake from the Firehole River. Its 36 connections in the Upper Geyser Basin area serve 150 year-round residents and another 1,500 to 2,000 people daily during the peak summer season, according to the EPA’s notice.

A semi-metal element, arsenic is odorless and tasteless and can cause stomach pain, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis and blindness, according to the EPA.

Warthin said solutions being considered by maintenance staff include changing the chemicals used to improve arsenic removal.

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