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Council confident brown water woes solved

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Mostly agreeing that the city’s problem with brown water is likely solved, the Pequot Lakes City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 4, adopted the 2013 fee schedule that includes water and sewer rate increases.

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Mayor Nancy Adams cast the sole no vote regarding the fee schedule, saying those water rates should not increase until the city’s problem with brown water was fixed.

The problem with recurring brown water dates back to the summer and is attributed to iron and manganese that coated the pipes over the years breaking off and floating in the water main.

The council considered adding chemical to the water system, but it appears that won’t be necessary.

“I believe that we’ve fixed our problem. I’ve fixed it enough that we shouldn’t have any more brown water,” Lee Bundy told the council.

Bundy is facilities manager with the Pine River Area Sanitary District, which the city contracts with for services.

“It’s in the lines and it will take using and drinking water to get it out,” Bundy said, noting it’s difficult to flush water lines in the winter because the water freezes on streets.

Bundy said the problem is a culmination of events that transpired over the years and has to do with the age of the wastewater facility.

“It’s not properly backwashing,” he said, noting only one of three cells was properly backwashing.

“It’s like a wash machine that doesn’t fully rinse out. There’s dirty water left over,” Bundy said.

Next week, a company is to go through the filter and check and measure all relays and valve openings to make sure all are operating properly, Bundy said.

He said they are correcting the problem as fast as they can.

The day of the council meeting, Dec. 4, they had taken care of another maintenance issue where they removed backwashed material that built up and was coming into the system.

“We have evidence the phone didn’t ring at city hall today and we backwashed on Monday,” Bundy said. “I think I can hold off the brown water from entering the system. But what’s out there is out there and we have to use it up.”

Before Bundy’s explanation, council member Jerry Akerson agreed with Adams regarding water rate increase. Council member Dave Sjoblad disagreed, saying the problem is being worked on and is costing the city money.

Adams wanted to see no brown water for a month or two before increasing water and sewer rates.

Council member Tom Ryan said that since it appeared the problem was fixed, the city should continue with its plan to increase water and sewer rates.

The fee schedule was adopted, with Adams opposed.

Residential water rate will increase to $17.67 for the first 2,000 gallons (up from $17.32) and $6.62 for each additional 1,000 gallons (up from $6.49).

Residential sewer rates will increase to $20.07 for the first 2,000 gallons (up from $19.30) and $9.02 for each additional 1,000 gallons (up from $8.47).

Commercial water rates will increase to $19.87 for the first 5,000 gallons (up from $19.48) and $6.96 for each additional 1,000 gallons (up from $6.75).

Commercial sewer rates will increase to $21.29 for the first 5,000 gallons (up from $20.47) and $9.02 for each additional 1,000 gallons (up from $8.47).

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