Waterline Spring 2009 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

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Waterline Spring 2009 (PDF: 608KB/8 pages)

Stew Thornley

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WaterWorks! Success Stories

WaterWorks! A Drinking Water Institute for Educators held its ninth Institute in 2008.

Designed as a way for middle-school science teachers to learn about drinking water and to develop inquiry-based activities to bring back to their classrooms, the Institutes have been sponsored and financially supported by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association (AWWA). Lee Schmitt, originally the director of teacher education for the Science Museum of Minnesota and now with Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) at Hamline University in St. Paul, has been the coordinator for WaterWorks!

The first Institute was held in Eden Prairie in 2001 with Institutes held annually (including two in 2005) since then in New Ulm, St. Cloud, Rochester, Detroit Lakes, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Lakeville, and the Outdoor Learning Center outside Ely.

Teachers spend three days at the Institute in the summer, then develop action plans on how to incorporate the information and activities into their existing science curriculum. They return for a follow-up session in the fall and submit their action plans to the other teachers for peer review. Upon completion of their work, they receive two college credits.

Ongoing communication with Institute graduates indicates the success of the program as teachers have developed extensive educational programs on drinking water. A past graduate is invited to each of the follow-up sessions to talk about his or her experiences.

At the follow-up session last fall for the 2008 Institute, two teachers from Dassel-Cokato Middle School spoke on how they received a technology grant of $38,000 from Hewlett-Packard to use for inquiry-based lessons for “From the Ground Up,” an interdisciplinary program that focuses on water. The grant is designed to transform and improve learning in the classroom through innovative uses of technology.

Sue Sparboe and Melissa Rudebusch, who attended the Drinking Water Institute in 2005 and 2007, respectively, teamed with geography and math teachers in applying for the grant. In the process, they expanded the two-to-three weeks they had been spending on water into a five-week program. In addition to science, they use math to have students monitor home water usage and ways to reduce it and geography to show watersheds on Minnesota maps as well as to explore global issues.

“We found it’s such a hot topic,” said Sparboe of why they chose water as the focus for their grant. “WaterWorks! is the reason we came up with this idea,” added Rudebusch.

Taste Test at WaterWorks! Follow-up Session
Sue Sparboe recording data

Melissa Rudebusch and Sue Sparboe conducted a taste test, similar to what they perform as part of their five-week unit on drinking water at Dassel-Cokato Middle School, at the follow-up session for the 2008 WaterWorks! Drinking Water Institute. In the photo on the right, teachers lined up to tell Sparboe their preferences on the water they drank, with Sparboe entering the data into a computer provided by Hewlett-Packard as part of the grant to the school. Another success story among Drinking Water Institute graduates is Cathy Bockenstedt, who became the co-author of Earth Science Success: 50 Lesson Plans for Grades 6-9, just published by the National Science Teachers Association Press. In the photo below, she presents an autographed copy of the book to WaterWorks! coordinator Lee Schmitt. The 2009 WaterWorks! Institute will be held August 10 to 12 in Oakdale.

Cathy Bockenstedt and Lee Schmitt

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Urban Water Cycle Completed

As part of the WaterWorks! Drinking Water Institute, MDH and Minnesota AWWA worked with Hamline University CGEE to develop an interactive module on drinking water called the Urban Water Cycle. While this includes a teachers’ guide and will be used in the Institutes, it is also available to water systems and the general public.

The module is available on the MDH website.

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License Requirements for Well and Pump Work on Public Water Well

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) occasionally receives questions about whether a municipal employee must have a well contracting license to perform well or pump work on the city’s water supply wells. MDH regulates the construction, repair, and sealing of wells and borings in Minnesota through Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 103I and Minnesota Rules Chapter 4725 (Minnesota Well Code), which requires that a person who drills, constructs, repairs, or seals a well or boring, or installs a well pump or pumping equipment must have a well contractor’s license.

Some activities that municipal employees may perform on the city’s water supply wells without a well contractor’s license include measurement of water levels, disinfection, repair of a pump after it has been removed from the well by a licensed well contractor, and the installation of water valves, piping, treatment, and controls after the point of discharge from the well.

Activities that municipal employees, or any other person, may not perform on the wells without an appropriate well contractor’s license include well construction, well repair, and permanent well sealing, removal or installation of well pumps, well treatment with any material other than chlorine, and modification of a well casing.

Licensed well contractors are bonded and have extensive experience related to well construction, well sealing, pump installation, maintenance, and repair. Licensed well contractors must also comply with annual continuing education requirements that provide well contractors with current regulatory and industry information, including emerging construction and repair techniques, products, and materials.

In addition to the full well contractor license, MDH offers other “limited” well contracting licenses for several limited categories of well work, including pumps and pumping equipment, pitless and screen, and well sealing. Questions about who can perform work on community water supply wells and if a license is needed, may be directed to the MDH Well Management Section at 651-201-4600 or 800-383-9808.

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Joint Powers Water Board Brings Aquifer Storage Technology to Minnesota

Joint Powers Water Board treatment plant

More than 30 years ago several communities 25 to 30 miles to the northwest of the Twin Cities, straddling the line between Hennepin and Wright Counties, began working together to provide drinking water to their residents.  In 1977, they formed a utility, the Joint Powers Water Board (JPWB) of Albertville, Hanover, St. Michael, and Frankfort (the latter a township that has since been absorbed by St. Michael).

In 2000, the Joint Powers Water Board completed a water treatment plant with three horizontal pressure filters to remove iron and manganese.  Within a few years two more filters were added to meet the demand caused by growth in the population.  The expansion brought the plant to a capacity of 10 million gallons per day, but continued population growth caused the board to look at the possibility of adding more wells.

JPWB Wellhouse 9
JPWB Well 9
The horizontal pressure filters at the water treatment plant in Albertville.

Kelly Daleiden, the project manager for Veolia Water North American Central, which operates the plant on a contract basis for JPWB, said that any new wells would have to be in the southern portion of the service area, in the vicinity of St. Michael and Hanover, and wouldn’t be feasible for the existing plant, which is in Albertville.  As a result, a new treatment plant would be needed, not just another expansion of the current plant.

Working first with Chris Catlin and then with Chris Larson at the St. Paul engineering firm of Howard R. Green Company, the Joint Powers Board began exploring a different way to meet the growing demand.  Instead of constructing another plant, JPWB opted for a technology that has been used in the eastern and southern United States since 1969.

Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) involves injecting water into an aquifer during periods of surplus and/or low demand and then pumping it out when it is needed.  “The purpose of ASR is to allow you to peak shave the size of your water treatment plant in that you can treat closer to your average daily demand rather than building the treatment plant capacity to treat the maximum daily demand,” said Larson.  “You realize significant capital savings if your treatment plant is sized only to treat the average daily demand.”

JPWB has been getting its water from seven wells that draw from either glacial drift or the Mount Simon aquifer.  In 2006, construction began on Well 9, in St. Michael, which would serve as an ASR well, getting its water from the distribution system and injecting it into the aquifer.  Completed in 2007, the well is 504 feet deep and goes into the Mount Simon aquifer.

JPWB Wellhouse 9
JPWB Well 9
Construction on Wellhouse 9, with the well in front of it, began in 2006 and was completed in 2007.

Larson pointed out that the well is a basic production well that has a stainless-steel injection tube, three inches in diameter, which extends through the static water table, allowing the utility to pump water into the aquifer.  “It does not mix but rather displaces the water already there,” he explained. 

The water being injected into the aquifer will push out the water in such a manner that the water around Well 9 will be treated water taken directly from the distribution system.  The Mount Simon is a confined aquifer, with the Eau Claire aquifer as an upper confining unit and Proterozoic volcanic and sedimentary rock as the lower confining unit.  Because it is confined, the water displaces horizontally.  In the aquifer are a mixing zone and a buffer zone, which allows the system to recover much of the treated water. 

“The treated water being pumped back into the aquifer will displace the native water and push the water that contains iron and manganese back,” said Larson.  “They will be able to recover the water that is free of iron and manganese.”

The well will recharge the aquifer in the winter and fall, when demand is lower, then recover it in the summer.  Although the aquifer has been recharged with treated water, when it is recovered it may need some additional disinfection.  Larson said sodium hypochlorite, along with fluoride, will be added as necessary before the water goes into the distribution system.

Another advantage of using ASR is that it reduced concerns about an abandoned landfill that has a groundwater contaminant plume migrating to the area of the new well field.  Although the contaminants are in a different aquifer, the potential for contaminant migration exists if the aquifers are hydraulically connected.  Since there is net-zero withdrawal from the Mount Simon aquifer, potential migration of the landfill plume into the well field will be mitigated. 

JPWB received a variance from the Minnesota Department of Health to use an injection well for a two-phase pilot study, using water from two existing wells. “We will pump a certain amount of water into the aquifer, and then we will recover somewhere around that volume of water,” said Larson.  “Part of it is going to mix a bit.  The question is what percentage of recovery can we get before something becomes objectionable.”

The first phase of the pilot study will be performed with 300,000 gallons of recharge and 150 percent recovery.  The water will be tested as it is pumped out to determine the point at which the water quality changes from treated ASR water to native Well 9 water.

“There are a couple of things we can test to see that: iron and manganese concentrations, oxidation reduction potential,” explained Larson.  “The treated water we’re pumping into the aquifer is oxidized, has chlorine in it, and the iron and manganese has been removed.  We pump in 300,000 gallons and have to recover 450,000 gallons.”

The second phase of the pilot study will involve five million gallons of recharge with 150 percent recovery.  When the ASR system is fully operational, Larson said they will be recharging the aquifer with 60 million gallons of water for later recovery.

Larson said the pilot studies should be complete by the summer of 2009. If all goes well, they will begin recharging for full-scale recovery later in the year.  It will be the first application of Aquifer Storage and Recovery in Minnesota.

Plate Settlers at St. Joseph Water Plant
Old St. Joseph Water Plant
The ASR piping inside Wellhouse 9 (left) is the “only piping needed for ASR,” according to Chris Larson, shown at the right.

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Small Utilities to Investigate Disinfection Byproducts in 2009

Forty small Minnesota drinking water utilities (those serving populations of fewer than 10,000) will fulfill their Initial Distribution System Evaluation (IDSE) requirements over the course of 2009. Eight of those utilities provide treated surface water, while 32 treat and/or purchase ground water. This is the fourth and final IDSE group and will result in a total of 57 Minnesota water utilities with improved disinfection byproducts (DBP) data. The Minnesota Department of Health will be assisting the final IDSE system group by distributing MDH-approved IDSE Standard Monitoring Plans, sample supplies (bottles, MDH Lab forms, labels, freeze packs), and 2009 Annual Sample Schedules. MDH staff will also be available to provide some sample collection assistance. Operators began receiving IDSE materials in November 2008 and will continue to receive them
periodically through 2009.

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Waterworks Quiz

1. Turbidity in water can be caused by:
    a. adequate filtration.
    b. dissolved gases.
    c. inadequate baffling.
    d. unsettled particulate matter.

2. When the static water level of the groundwater is 50 feet below the ground surface, the most suitable type of pump is a(n):
    a. air lift pump.
    b. gear pump.
    c. horizontal centrifugal pump.
    d. turbine pump.

3. Spell centrifugal.
    a. c-e-n-t-r-a-f-u-g-a-l
    b. c-e-n-t-r-i-p-h-u-g-a-l
    c. p-s-e-n-t-r-f-i-g-a-l
    d. c-e-n-t-r-i-f-u-g-a-l

Answers below.

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Where Are They Now?

Many water professionals go on to notoriety in different fields. One is Bob Spangler, who worked in public relations for American Water Works Association (AWWA) in the 1970s and 1980s. Reportedly a p. r. whiz, Spangler’s charms extended to his assistant at AWWA, Sharon Cooper.

While Spangler was working at AWWA his wife, Nancy, allegedly murdered the couple’s two children before committing suicide. Barely six months later, Bob and Sharon married. Sharon became an authority on the Grand Canyon and, through her, Bob developed an affinity for the canyon, a love he maintained even after divorcing Sharon. In 1993, Bob and another wife, Donna, were at the Grand Canyon when Donna went over a cliff and died. Not long after that, Sharon moved back into Bob’s house. The following year she committed suicide.

Authorities finally began investigating the deaths of Spangler’s wives and arrested him in 2000. Spangler, who had cancer by this time and would die the following year, confessed to the murders of his first wife and their children as well as to pushing his third wife, Donna, over the edge of the cliff at the Grand Canyon. He claimed no complicity in the suicide of Sharon.

In addition to the deaths of his wives, Spangler was suspected in the 1986 death of his dad, Merlin, who had been a noted professor at Iowa State University (even having a theory dealing with the aspects of soil pressure on underground conduits named after him). During a visit to his home from Bob, Merlin had a fall at his home and two weeks later was dead, his sizable estate passing on to Bob. Many years before, when Bob was 11, a classmate hated by Bob mysteriously drowned at a sewer treatment plant.

Spangler became the focus of a 2004 book, Married to Murder by Robert Scott.

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Former 20-game Winner Appears at Northwest District School

Dave Goltz

Dave Goltz, a star pitcher for the Minnesota Twins who won 20 games in 1977, was the breakfast speaker at the Northwest District Water Operators School in Fergus Falls in December. Larry Rudh, an operator for the city of Fergus Falls and a teammate of Goltz’s at Rothsay High School, was able to prevail upon his friend to speak to the group.

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Cool Web Sites

Safe Drinking Water Act

Minnesota’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water

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Answers to Waterworks Quiz

1. d

2. d

3. d

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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

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Updated Friday, February 12, 2016 at 06:36AM