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Park Rapids studying quality of new aquifer

An Elsner Well Drilling crew drills near the northwest Park Rapids water tower to gather information for a potential new well field in the city. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Water testing is being conducted near the northwest water tower in Park Rapids to determine quality before drilling a test well.

Park Rapids is in the midst of an in-depth water study to address persistent water issues.

"Anytime you put a new aquifer into production you want to make sure to gather as much data as you can to make sure that it is indeed a safe and suitable aquifer," said city engineer Jon Olson. "Right now we have some gaps in some of the available data so we're doing some fieldwork before we take the large investment of developing that field."

Elsner Well Drilling has been contracted to drill holes for testing.

"We want to make sure that we get as much information as we can prior to making that next step into actual production wells," Olson added. "We're gathering some additional information, doing some test holes just to verify subsurface soil materials to define where that confining layer is at. We're also putting in some observation wells."

So far, the information is looking good.

"Based on the information we've gathered so far it's looking extremely optimistic and it looks like we're trending toward the right path," he said. "Until you go through this process you don't know."

The next step is to put in an actual test well in at the location.

"Hopefully we'll verify that this is a suitable location for a well field," Olson said. "Right now we're pretty pleased with the way things are progressing."

A water treatment facility is one of the last options available to the city to provide clean water. A cost estimate shows a facility would cost $2,482,300.

Currently, the city uses well water primarily from shallow wells 5 and 6 but includes water from deep well 8 during periods of high demand.

Water from the shallow aquifer has been seeing increasing levels of nitrates, which is a health concern. The deep aquifer has increasing levels of iron, which, while not a health concern, creates staining and taste concerns.

The system is operating at peak capacity and is able to meet maximum demand due to water storage. The average daily demand is 430 gallons per minute and maximum daily demand is 859 gallons per minute.

Dave Hume conducted a hydrogeologic assessment and determined the Upper Confined Aquifer is the best source for developing a well field for the city. He is still determining the best aquifer and location of a well field.

At a recent council meeting he recommended continuing baseline groundwater level monitoring in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources on select observation wells.

Hume will also be sampling select wells to better characterize the groundwater chemistry study area.

A pilot test will be conducted from mid-September through October.

Olson recommends design work over the winter with construction next spring. Funding for the project hasn't been determined but several grants have been applied for through the state.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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