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Minneapolis Spending $63 Million for Clean Drinking Water

March 19, 2017 10:41 PM

The city of Minneapolis is spending $63 million to make sure 500,000 people have clean drinking water. 

Minneapolis is upgrading its nearly 100-year-old water filtration plant. It's the giant filter that takes all the bad stuff out of the Mississippi River water to render it drinkable.

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Jackhammers have been pounding away at the old filter system for a couple months. That's 50 wheelbarrows an hour comprising 16,000 loads of concrete, rock and sand that have been removed so far.

Underground, the original cast iron pipes are also being replaced.

Superintendent of Water Treatment Plant Operations and Maintenance Annika Bankston said, "What we have down here is actually all the old piping that brings the water to and takes the water from the filter boxes." 

Bankston said they don't build them like the used to, and that's a good thing.

"One of the great things we were well positioned for was really the bones of the plant," she said. "You think about the bones of your house, the foundation and the structure of the house. Well, this plant had very good bones."

Project Manager Dale Folen said Minneapolis did a study, and to replace the entire plant would have cost about $250 million, making $63 million a pretty good value for taxpayers. 

"We would easily expect it to run 30 or 40 years," Folen said. "We would hope even longer than that."

The city worked with scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Service to look at the upper Mississippi River watershed, from Lake Itasca to the Twin Cities. They tried to predict the water's contents 50 years from now. 

"What we're seeing already is the forested land north of us is turning to urban development and pasture land," said George Kraynick, water quality manager for the City of Minneapolis. "That is going to directly impact the water quality of the Mississippi River."

Kraynick said the groups predicted there would be more lawn chemicals, pesticides and medications. Also, the water could contain everyday items like soap and sunscreen, even caffeine.

"Coffee is something that everyone drinks," Kraynick said, "and it's got to go somewhere."

 "It's those long-term trends we need to be cognizant of to really be sure our treatment techniques can address what the river can throw at us," Kraynick added.

When waste water treatment was mandated nationwide in the early 1970s, the Federal government paid for 50 percent to 75 percent of the total cost. But now, at a time when many systems need to be replaced, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said there is almost no federal funding available.

Gov. Mark Dayton's $1.5 billion dollar bonding bill includes $172 million dollars for wastewater, drinking water, and storm water infrastructure needs. The MPCA said it represents a fraction of the work that needs to be done. 

Credits

Kevin Doran

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