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Backus council plans an end to water plant woes

This past winter, various devices failed at Backus’ water plant, located near the water tower. To remedy these problems, the Backus City Council on Monday, April 1, decided to replace the deteriorating control system in the water plant and begin planning for renovations.

Lee Bundy, city water/sewer operator, said various parts of the system have begun wearing out, mostly due to contact with corrosive materials. Bundy said the water plant is not currently ventilated, and during warm summer months the inside becomes very humid, causing condensation that mixes with corrosive chloride and fluoride chemicals and damages equipment inside.

This past winter, the deteriorating equipment resulted in five different occasions where city residents were without water for a short period of time. The water plant has alert systems to prevent such occasions; however, Bundy was made aware of these shutdowns only three times by the alert systems and twice by concerned citizens. This was due to the failing control system.

Bundy told the council that the plant needs renovation. When asked, he said it could take as many as eight weeks or more to receive a replacement control system alone. The council responded that Bundy and engineers from Widseth, Smith, Nolting (WSN) should choose a suitable control system and begin preparing a proposal for the rest of the renovations.

“I think we ought to find the best plan and get it going,” Mayor Kurt Sawyer said. “Because we don’t need problems with the water shutting down.”

It was suggested that while waiting for a new control system, certain preliminary renovations could already be completed, such as repairs to roofing and wiring. Backus City Clerk Jeff Turk assured the council that research had been done, and the city had money available for the renovation.

Council member Richard Bean made a motion that Bundy and WSN should go forward with choosing a suitable control system and begin researching the next steps for renovation. The motion passed.

In response to questions by a concerned citizen, Bundy informed residents that water may be discolored following temporary shutdowns due to settling sediments. He suggested that, following these shutdowns, residents should run water until it becomes clear and consider cleaning screens located on water taps, as they may have rust in them. Bundy said the water was safe to drink, just discolored.