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Deep well to be drilled in Park Rapids this fall

Park Rapids will move forward with digging a deep well along with a new well house after test results showed quality water.

Jon Olson, with Ulteig Engineers, told the city council Tuesday that a test well that was drilled in response to high nitrate levels found in a shallow city well was successful.

The new well will replace a shallow well that was closed after tests showed high nitrate levels.

"The well did very well," Olson said. "There looks to be a pretty adequate water supply."

Also, several water quality samples were taken and most levels were within recommended standards.

Arsenic, nitrate, hardness, iron and manganese were all tested. The only compound that exceeded the recommended level is iron, Olson said. The iron level tested at .57 mg/l. The recommended standard is .3 mg/l or less.

The presence of iron in a municipal water source does not pose a health risk but will be noticeable at elevated levels by the consumer due to staining of fixtures. Also, iron deposits can build up in the water mains over time. This can be alleviated by flushing dead end hydrants more frequently or possibly adding a polyphosphate to sequester the iron, if necessary, according to Gary Nansen with Ulteig Engineers.

The city engineers recommended that Park Rapids move forward with the test well. There is a possibility of blending the new well water with the city's other shallow wells, which would lower the iron level overall, Olson said.

The iron concentrations should be tested periodically to verify that the levels do not continue to rise over time, according to the engineer's results.

The timeline will likely be late fall for construction of the well and well house, Olson said. The well house will be paid for in part by a federal grant of about $400,000.

Before construction can begin, the City Council will need to approve new water rates to reflect conservation.

A first reading of the new ordinance was read at Tuesday's meeting. A second reading will be read before the new rate structure will be set.

Minnesota Statute 103G.291 states a public water supplier serving more than 1,000 people shall use a conservation rate structure by Jan. 1, 2013. However, Park Rapids will need to adopt a new rate structure before then in order to receive the grant for a new well house, said City Administrator Bill Smith.

A conservation rate structure means a rate structure that encourages conservation and may include increasing block rates, seasonal rates, time of use rates, individualized goal rates, or excess use rates. The rate structure must consider each residential unit as an individual user in multiple-family dwellings, according to the state statute.

Public water suppliers must update their plan and, upon notification, submit it to the commissioner for approval every 10 years.

The proposal city staff came up with was to start with a lower rate for the first tier and increase the rate as water usage increases. The base rate would also increase.

In a tiered plan, some users will see a higher bill and others will see a lower bill, Smith said.

After the second reading of the ordinance the proposal will be sent to the Department of Natural Resources for approval, Smith said.