Baxter city council reflects on prospects for water treatment plant

That future, city officials and consultants noted, looks increasingly costly as impending structural problems emerge and deteriorate over time. Kevin Young, consultant and water operations specialist at Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc., noted that projects to repair, upgrade and upgrade the water treatment facility to performance levels which it will need in the years to come could reach $ 3.5 million in the worst case.

Not only is $ 3.5 million a bewildering figure, observed Mayor Darrel Olson, but it’s just the latest iteration of rising cost estimates in recent years. Board member Mark Cross expressed frustration with proposals and associated cost estimates to expand the capacity of the water treatment facility and upgrade its equipment to handle a load of heavier work linked to the local watershed. Concentrations of arsenic, ammonia, iron and other toxins should be filtered regularly.

RELATED: Watering Restrictions Begin at Baxter

“To really increase capacity, there has to be a cheaper way to do it. … To get a million and a half gallons (of capacity), are you going to have to pay $ 3.5 million? You do the math and it’s not worth it, ”Cross said. “We have to look for another way to do it. The frustrating part is we paid $ 10 million for a 5 million gallon plant and we never saw it. We see report after report on how we can improve it and the number keeps increasing. “

Young noted that a number of structural issues need to be addressed, including cracks, corroded nozzles and filters, or media (the granular mixture through which water filters) that will need to be replaced over the next several years. . This is particularly relevant with how often the Baxter facility must treat and reprocess the water supply to account for toxins in the watershed.

On the other hand, the advent of biological filter technology, which the city is exploring, means that the facility could have a more chemically robust treatment process without overhauling the facility itself. Creating a water treatment system capable of handling both traditional and biochemical forms of filtration is one aspect of the city’s willingness to tackle its water treatment system. .

– Mark Cross, member of Baxter City Council.

At the Baxter city council meeting on Tuesday, the council voted to approve the design of a plan to reconstruct the underground drainage system of the existing water treatment plant filter and to allow city employees to publish bids from contractors for the project.

The project includes the following works:

  • Removal of existing filter media and underground drainage system.

  • Selective deconstruction of internal portions in filters.

  • Construction of an underground drainage system with a concrete false bottom.

  • Installation of filtration nozzles, supporting gravel and filter media, replacement of filtration function valves, as well as associated electrical work for electric valve actuators and limit switches on pneumatic valves.

Funding sources identified to potentially fund this project include:

  • Insurance products, which depend on the pending results of an insurance claim filed with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.

  • General Bond Income Bonds.

  • Federal funds for the American Rescue Plan Act.

  • The city’s water fund reserves.

The issue of water – a generally plentiful resource in the Brainerd Lakes region – took on a new dimension and urgency after council put in place watering restrictions during an emergency meeting on the 9th. June. A failure of the Baxter water treatment plant, the summer influx of residents and visitors, little rain and hot temperatures combine to put a strain on the city’s water supply. Due to issues with the water treatment plant, Baxter is purchasing water from Brainerd Public Utilities for the next few months.

RELATED: Baxter Employees Warn Water Treatment Problems Are Not an Easy Solution

Problems initially arose at the water treatment plant after engineers discovered that one of the facility’s filter caps was inexplicably defective late last year. Baxter’s water treatment facility is also somewhat limited as it was designed in the late 90s to be limited use or a temporary amenity, which was not reflected in the filtration requirements. of the city during the intervening decades, have noted consultants at previous meetings.

During a workshop on January 20, staff members noted that the plant has four filtration pumps when it should probably have eight to account for consumption, as well as to deal with high concentrations of arsenic, ammonia and especially iron in the watershed. To properly filter the water, the current plant had to perform 300 to 400 backwashes (or a second filtration cycle) per year, while an average water treatment plant in a comparable municipality typically requires about 150 backwashes per year.

GABRIEL LAGARDE can be contacted at [email protected] or 218-855-5859. Follow on

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