Drinking Water Protection: Waterline, Fall 2013 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health
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Stew Thornley

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Waterline, Fall 2013
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Safe Drinking Water Week Proclaimed

Lt. governor Yvonne Prettner Solon and commissioner Ed Ehlinger
Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed May 5-11 as Safe Drinking Water Week in Minnesota, and Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon (left) presented the proclamation to Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger. During Safe Drinking Water Week the Health Department released its drinking water annual report, Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Protection Annual Report 2012.

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Steve Robertson Takes over as Head of MDH Source Water Protection Unit

Steve Robertson

Steve Robertson has been named the supervisor of the Source Water Protection Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). He succeeds Bruce Olsen, who retired last year, and Art Person, who served as interim supervisor before retiring in April.

Steve grew up in Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, and spent time in Minnesota visiting family members (his mom is from Wabasha). He earned degrees in geology from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and the University of Texas.

After graduate school he returned to Minnesota and worked at environmental consulting firms before coming to MDH in 1998 to work in wellhead protection.

He enjoys cross-country skiing, woodworking, and running. Last spring Steve completed the Boston Marathon, finishing shortly after the bombs exploded. He said he heard the explosions but was out of the immediate area by the time they occurred.

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A Winning Water Poster

Connor Hagarty and his winning poster

Connor Hagarty of Bluffview Montessori School in Winona displays the winning poster on water for a contest held in conjunction with World Water Day. For Hagarty’s art work and creativity, his school received a bottle filling station. The contest was funded by grants from the Minnesota Department of Health as well as H2O for Life, Dow Water and Process Solutions, Bongard Corporation/Elkay, and the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association.

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Belgrade Avoids Arsenic with New Wells and Treatment Plant

Belgrade Water Treatment Plant

The central Minnesota city of Belgrade has been supplying water to its residents for nearly 70 years.  Its first plant was built in 1945, and in 1961 the city added gravity filters to remove iron and manganese.  A 28,000-gallon tank for backwash was built in 1995.

As Belgrade grew to more than 700 people at the turn of the century, the city also faced the news that the federal standard for arsenic would be lowered soon.  In 2006, the maximum contaminant level (MCL) went down from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb.

At the time, Belgrade was using two wells adjacent to the treatment plant.  One was low in arsenic, but the other had levels around 40 ppb.  By blending the wells, the city was able to comply with the stricter MCL—barely.  The “barely” was added by public works superintendent Tony Olson, who also said that the low-arsenic well was “slowing down,” leading to fears that it would not be able to continue to produce enough water needed for the blending.

The treatment facility was also showing its age, and it was apparent action was needed for the city to continue to meet its average daily demand of 90,000 gallons and peak demand of 240,000 gallons.

A pilot study, conducted with SEH, Inc., in the winter of 2009-2010, showed that new wells and a new backwash tank were needed and that a new plant would have to be built or the existing one rehabilitated.

A test well located in an industrial-park area in the northeast section of Belgrade indicated a water source with no arsenic but with higher levels of iron and manganese.  The city drilled two new wells, ranging in depth from 187 to 189 feet, in this area.

“They were lucky enough to find these wells that don’t have arsenic,” said Jeff Ledin, a member of the SEH design team, along with Chad Katzenberger and John Thom.  “Iron’s great.  We can treat that all day long.  Arsenic—we have to work at that.”

As part of the pilot study, the design team, public-works officials, and city council members toured nearby plants in Richmond, Clara City, and Kensington.  In addition to the treatment processes in those plants, the group paid attention to the building and facilities design.  “We learned to separate the office and controls,” said Olson.  “It’s not as noisy.”

At the conclusion of the study, the city opted for a new treatment plant adjacent to the wells in the industrial park with a backwash tank outside the plant.  A new plant eliminated the need for a line from the previous site to the new wells, and the 30,000-gallon backwash tank reclaims about 80 percent of the water.

The new treatment plant has two pressure filters, each with 12 inches of anthracite on top of 18 inches of silica sand.  Darren Braegelman, who operates the plant, said chlorine and fluoride, along with a polyphosphate for corrosion control, is added to the water after it passes through the filters.  Single-stage pumping from the wells gets the water to residents.

Map of Belgrade showing the old and new treatment plants
The new Belgrade water treatment plant is in an industrial park in the city’s northeast corner and has two pressure filters.
Pressure filters at the new Belgrade water treatment plant

The new plant went on line March 17, 2011.  Its masonry exterior fits with the surroundings of the industrial park.  The old plant was demolished and the wells sealed although the 100,000-gallon tower on the previous site remains.

The final cost of the project was $1,687,000 and financed with a slight increase in water rates as well as through a combined loan and grant package from the Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Revolving Fund and Public Facilities Authority in addition to a small city’s grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Schematic of Belgrade water treatment process
A schematic drawing of the treatment process in Belgrade.

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Reminder to All Water Operators

When submitting water samples for analyses, remember to do the following:

  • Take coliform samples on the distribution system, not at the wells or entry points.
  • Write the Date Collected, Time Collected, and Collector’s Name on the lab form.
  • Write the Sample Point on lab forms for bacteriological and fluoride samples.
  • Attach the label to each bottle (do not attach labels to the lab form).
  • Include lab forms with submitted samples.
  • Do not use a rollerball or gel pen; the ink may run.
  • Consult your monitoring plan(s) prior to collecting required compliance samples.

Notify your Minnesota Department of Health district engineer of any e-mail changes for contact people.

If you have questions, call the Minnesota Department of Health contact on the back of all sample instruction forms.

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Magnificent Minneapolis Manholes

Minneapolis manhole
A stroll through the sidewalks and streets along Nicollet Mall and down Sixth and Seventh streets in downtown Minneapolis shows that the city intends more than function for its port utility (aka manhole) covers. Grills, glasses, lakes, longitude and latitude coordinates, a mini-apple, and more are part of the covers, designed by different artists between 1983 and 1990. They are still in use for the work of water and sewer crews and the intriguing appearance for residents and visitors.
Minneapolis manhole
Minneapolis manhole
Minneapolis manhole
Minneapolis manhole
Minneapolis manhole

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Grant Funding Used to Seal Unused Public Water Supply Wells

Funding from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was provided to the Minnesota Department of Health to establish cost-share assistance to seal unused (not-in-use) wells. Approximately $176,000 was awarded in 2011-2012 for sealing private wells through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. In 2013 MDH awarded nearly $250,000 to public water suppliers to seal unused wells. This funding requires a 50 percent match from non-state sources and pays well owners up to half the cost of sealing unused wells.

Awards went out to the following 19 public water suppliers to seal a total of 29 unused wells by the end of 2013:

  • Aspenwood Homes Owners Association in Tofte – 1 well
  • City of Baxter – 2 wells
  • Cascade Lodge in Lutsen – 1 well
  • City of Cook – 2 wells
  • Norwood Shores East Home Owners Assn. in Lutsen – 1 well
  • Beltrami County in the city of Solway – 1 well
  • City of Balaton – 1 well
  • City of Benson – 2 wells
  • Brownton Water Supply – 1 well
  • Lismore Colony in Clinton – 1 well
  • City of Marshall – 1 well
  • City of St. James – 2 wells
  • Heritage Square Townhomes in Faribault – 2 wells
  • City of Lewiston – 1 well
  • Browerville Water System – 2 wells
  • City of Royalton – 1 well
  • City of Burnsville – 3 wells
  • City of Eagan – 2 wells
  • City of St. Louis Park – 2 wells

MDH was once again awarded $500,000 from the Clean Water Fund for fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015. MDH is planning to pass $250,000 to BWSR in FY 2014 to be awarded as part of their 2014 Clean Water Fund Competitive Grants. These grants will be awarded to local governmental units to provide funding for sealing unused private wells.

The second $250,000 will be awarded by MDH to well owners to seal unused public wells. These awards will be made through competitive grants in FY 2015.

These competitive grants will be announced on the agencies’ websites as well as through newsletters and the MDH GovDelivery system.

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Words to Live By

Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.

In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.

Life is a teacher that keeps giving you new problems before you’ve solved the old ones.

Nothing deflates a critic faster than to accept the criticism as a friendly gesture and to try to get some good out of it.

You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.
—Henry Ford (not Tim Brewster)

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Operator training sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota AWWA will be held in several locations this spring.

Upcoming water training schedule


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Updated Thursday, February 09, 2017 at 06:34AM