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City approves review of water system

The future of Park Rapids' water system, now at peak capacity, will come under engineer scrutiny, the council approving a study this week on long-term solutions.

Ulteig engineer Jon Olson reported city water is now produced by three wells, one deep, two shallow (wells five, six and eight). "The system is insufficient to meet demand with the loss of one production well," he cautioned.

But water quality within the deep aquifer at well seven appears suitable for blending, he told the council.

"We will look at the system as a whole, he said, "to verify we're on the right track."

As nitrates continue to rise, "we need to re-verify."

The city uses a well house, with a pump injecting fluoride and chlorine into the water, as opposed to a water treatment system.

"Park Rapids is very fortunate to have avoided a water treatment plant," he said, noting the cost of the plant itself, plus operation and maintenance "is significant.

"We've gotten by without it, but we need to look at (the system) more frequently," he said.

The report will project future demands on the system. An analysis of other area wells' water quality within the deep aquifer will be conducted. And estimated costs will be determined.

The study will address water treatment versus another well, he said, with alternatives spelled out.

Maintenance supervisor Scott Burlingame welcomed the decision to authorize a report.

"Jon nailed it on the head," he said. "We need to look at this long term."

City administrator Bill Smith agreed with taking a broad, futuristic view. The resolution to be considered on the agenda had simply called for "an engineering report for a new well and rehabilitation of wellhouse seven."

"In my opinion, public water supply is the city's number one concern," he said. "It's a good, timely thing to pay attention to the supply threat."

Olson reviewed the recent history of the city's water system.

A report prepared in 2005 found the city's water supply from shallow, unconfined wells to be low in iron, but nitrates were at an elevated level.

While the city wells provided sufficient production, water storage capacity was insufficient.

A second water tower was completed in 2007 but the construction of deeper wells and a plant to treat iron/manganese was determined to be too costly.

A report in 2008 found the existing well house beyond its useful life. Nitrate levels were found to be moving into maximum contaminant level territory. A deep test well at the west tower site proved nearly nitrate free, but iron levels were elevated. The blending of the deep with shallow wells was determined to be viable.

Following the 2008 report, wells four and seven were found to have exceeded MCL for nitrates and were removed from production. Well four was abandoned given its water quality and location. A new deep well was constructed for blending purposes and a new well house was constructed.

The study, Olson said, will provide projections and recommendations for "the most appropriate path."