Motley’s Council votes to clear up the city’s brown water

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Motley’s water, while safe to consume, is brown. The city’s water treatment facility was built in 1992, and the filters were designed to operate at 300 gallons per minute. The high water demand has them sometimes operating at 380 gallons per minute and the filters are having trouble removing manganese and hardness efficiently.

John Graupman, senior project manager for Bolton and Menk Consulting Engineers in Baxter, brought to Tuesday’s City Council meeting a proposal for a new facility. He advised council members to install concrete gravity filters with space provided for future reverse osmosis as a preferred treatment for a new water treatment plant.

The Council voted to accept Bolton and Menk’s proposal.

The approximate $5.029 million project would include:

• A masonry style building with a precast concrete roof;

• Concrete gravity filters;

• Concrete below grade clearwell water storage;

• Concrete backwash reclaim facilities;

• Space and piping arrangements for future reverse osmosis;

• A small lab and office space;

• A new well and well house modifications;

•  The demolition of the old facility; and

• Water main replacement and looping.

“This is aggressive,” said Graupman, “but there is urgency in Motley.”

Meetings were held with both Trident Seafood and Morey’s prior to the Council meeting. Both were concerned with the need for good, clean water for their facilities.

Trident is currently served by a looped, old and corrosive water main which has reduced capacity and has increased the risk of a break. The company is concerned with disruption of service and ultimately having to shut down operations.

Morey’s said in a letter that an improvement to the quality of water would enhance its processing, maintenance of equipment and the internal systems.

Bolton and Menk said that if the survey began May 20, and the design was finished by July 15, bids could be advertised by July 22. After bids are awarded, the well and water main could be constructed beginning Sept. 13, and the facility itself erected over the winter. The facility should be operational by Sept. 1, 2014.

David Drown, Motley’s financial consultant, said the city should consider assessing the two industries in town for the cost of the project.

“If one of the industries shuts down, rates will have to increase across town,” he said. “Assessments are like a lien or a mortgage. If one of the industries does shut down, the city will have an assessment lien on the property. The debt is secure.”

Drown suggested procuring a contract with both Trident and Morey’s to make the agreement legally binding. He also said the city will need to hold a public hearing.

Mayor Nancy Nieken said she would just as soon see the reverse osmosis option installed immediately, thus doing it right the first time. But questions were brought up about cost of chemicals, employee hours and testing that would increase the annual cost.

Councilman Rob Sampson said the reverse osmosis treatment was a more aggressive system and harder on utilities. He said people don’t like the taste of the water; it needs to be blended with minerals.

Bolton and Menk said the average household would see an increase of about $4 per month.

City Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Barros said Trident and Morey’s will be paying much more than $4 extra per month since they use millions of gallons of water.

Widseth Smith Nolting engineer Mark Hallan said the reverse osmosis systems give a more aggressive reject stream of water which would affect the wastewater treatment plant.

More information on reverse osmosis will be brought before the Council prior to a decision being made.