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Water treatment building rehabilitated

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Along with new equipment, the Backus Water Treatment Plant has been updated to protect that new equipment from moisture.

Various problems at the plant led to the rehabilitation. In January 2013, City Water/Wastewater Operator Lee Bundy told the council that a recirculation pump used to keep water from freezing had broken. Bundy took temporary measures to prevent a water shortage.

Last April, Bundy said failures of damaged equipment resulted in five occasions where Backus residents were left without water for short periods of time. To make matters worse, some alert systems in the plant were so corroded that in two cases he was not aware of the shortages until he was contacted by concerned citizens.

“The control panels failed and it didn’t tell us. When that started happening we couldn’t wait any longer. We needed to do something. When the tower runs out of water, we lose pressure in the system. That can cause breaks. There were a couple times we came here and found the tower was out of water or very close to it. That was as a result of the electrical systems going bad through corrosion,” said Andrew Schwartz, maintenance technician with the Pine River Area Sanitary District.

Last April, Bundy said the treatment plant was not well ventilated, so during summer months water would sometimes evaporate and condense on instruments, sometimes mixing with corrosive chloride and fluoride chemicals used in the plant.

“Severe deterioration and moisture caused a lot of problems in here. There was no dryer in here. It’s not like there was one and it just wasn’t working. There just wasn’t one in here. There probably should have been a long time ago,” said Schwartz. “More than anything it was just the moisture. The roof is bad up here, so that was leaking water through also. All that moisture being in here all the time. The air being that moist, never having a chance to dry out. This equipment just deteriorated. Over 20 years you can just imagine.”

Rehabilitation included cosmetic as well as functional updates. New motor starters, well controls and pumps were installed. The walls, pipes and floors were painted to improve the appearance of the facility as well as guard against moisture damage.

“We just had a recirculation pump replaced. That recirculates the water in the tower. The old one was shot and the plumbing for it was also bad, so we couldn’t even replace it ourselves. So, that was another good one to get replaced,” Schwartz said

The rehabilitation included an update to the facility’s aging alert system. Maintenance technicians are now capable of receiving alerts on their smart phones when there is a problem with the system, and respond remotely.

Updates to the facility were done with increasing system longevity in mind. Ventilation and an air dryer have been installed to prevent early corrosion in the future.

“It’ll be so much easier to maintain everything the way it’s set up now,” Schwartz said.

The facility will still need roof repairs. At the Feb. 3 regular meeting the Backus City Council decided to have a new tin roof installed during the coming spring or summer.

Repairs and updates to the facility done by Integrated Process Solutions cost $79,765, all of which was saved by the city beforehand for the rehabilitation of the water plant. Bundy said this was done so the city would not need to increase water rates to pay for the repairs.

The building was originally built in the 1960s with repairs and updates done in 1984. The treatment plant is at the base of the Backus water tower and used to treat municipal water sources. It holds 50,000 gallons of which 25,000 is used on a normal day.

Travis Grimler can be reached at Follow him on Facebook.