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Citizens grill Park Rapids City Council about selling water to pipeline project

Park Rapids residents Kent Brock and Florence Hedeen gave the Park Rapids City Council tough feedback about Enbridge's ongoing use of the city water supply while residential drought restrictions are in place.

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Kent Brock asks the Park Rapids City Council on Monday, Aug. 10, 2021 why the city is selling water to Enbridge during a drought and whether they know what it is being used for. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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The Park Rapids City Council took some heat about water issues during the citizen comment period of its meeting Tuesday.

Selling water to Enbridge

“Everybody I talk to about this, or bring this to their light, cannot believe this is happening,” said Kent Brock, a homeowner on Eastern Avenue. “What I’m talking about is the pipeline. I’m talking about Enbridge sucking water out of your hydrants.”

He noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stopped the project’s water usage permits due to the ongoing drought. Meanwhile, he said, he has seen three hydrants in the city with hoses and meters to supply Line 3 trucks.

Brock demanded answers to a number of questions: “Who’s monitoring it? How much are you gonna let them take? How about the aquifers, the deep and shallow aquifers? … Do you know where the water’s going, what it’s used for?”

After looking at past meeting agendas, Brock said he didn’t see an approval for Enbridge to take water. He said he has watched 4,000-gallon trucks filling with water and followed one of them to a pipeline “man camp” in the Backus area.

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“Do you not care where the water’s going?” he asked. “Could they not have gotten water from Backus for their man camp?”

While a city staff member admitted selling the water, Brock said, the city has restricted water use for residents.

Demanding answers

Brock reminded the council that he asked them last year for relief of issues related to his water service freezing, but his request was denied. Yet, he recalled, at the same meeting (March 10, 2020) a representative of the Line 3 project said they would take water out of the lakes to test the lines, filter the water and return it to the lakes.

Brock suggested that the council let itself be “brainwashed” and failed to “look outside that box.”

“I still don’t understand why you guys ever decided to sell them any water,” he said. “We’re in a damn drought. This is ridiculous.”

While demanding that the council answer his questions, Brock did not wait for a response. Council member Erika Randall bristled at this and reminded Brock of the purpose of the citizen comment period. She said council members may not know the information, but they can ask staff to report.

“So, in other words,” Brock said, “a big deal like this is gonna come and take a huge amount of water out of our aquifers, and you don’t all know about it?”

After mentioning his children and grandchildren, he added, “This is absolutely terrible. They could have put the pipeline on hold.”

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City Administrator Angel Weasner started to invite Brock to visit her office and discuss his questions, but he interrupted.

“I mean, if nothing can be done, I mean, the future, think of it,” he pleaded before leaving the podium. “Think, think, think, think!”

City staff responds

Having called a limit to Brock’s remarks, Mayor Ryan Leckner asked Weasner to comment.

“Yes, we are selling water at this point in time,” said Weasner. “Commercial businesses are allowed to purchase water, just like residential citizens are allowed to purchase water.”

She said the state enacted the current drought phase and declared lawn sprinkling, power-washing houses, car washing and recreational water uses to be non-essential. This prompted the council to restrict lawn watering to once a week, she said.

Weasner admitted the city sells water to Enbridge at a commercial bulk rate, “but we are still charging them for every drop that they purchase.”

Pausing in the doorway of the council chambers, Brock asked if there isn’t a concern about Enbridge taking millions of gallons of water. He left while discussion was underway.

“There is not a water shortage in Park Rapids or in our aquifers,” Leckner replied.

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“We monitor the aquifer every day,” Public Works Superintendent Scott Burlingame confirmed. “That particular aquifer that the city of Park Rapids is a part of is very well fed. I’ve seen years worse than this, as far as drought, and we haven’t had an issue.”

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Florence Hedeen warned the Park Rapids City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 that today's decisions will impact the climate for seven generations. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

The seventh generation

Florence Hedeen, a resident of 1st Street, told the council that for her, the water issue leads to the issue of climate change.

“What we are doing in our system of operation is really, really going to blow in the face of generations from now, to the seventh, to beyond,” she said. “The decisions that we make about water affect our children’s children’s children’s children’s children. … It isn’t just a pipeline. It is a change of the possibilities of the future of our children.”

Hedeen said she uses a minimum amount of water by choice because it is a precious resource.

Mentioning impacts on the rivers and fish populations, she concluded, “Climate change, from now into the future, affects not just us but our children to the seventh generation. Please keep that in mind.”

Weasner thanked everyone for their comments and said she is always willing and able to answer questions.

Randall also encouraged members of the public concerned about an issue to reach out to city staff for accurate information.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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