By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
The Wellhead Protection Plan in Little Falls is just more than mid-point through its 10 years, and already water plant staff is working on the one to follow.
“It normally takes about three years to put together a Wellhead Protection Plan,” said Dwayne Heinen, assistant supervisor at the city’s water plant. “We’re taking more time to work on it.”
In the meantime, Heinen is working to meet the requirements of the current plan, which expires in 2017.
The Wellhead Protection Plan is required by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). As part of the plan, abandoned wells in the city must be located and sealed, to prevent contamination of the city’s water supply.
Using an $8,300 grant from MDH, the city hired 3D Geophysics Inc. to scan the area around City Hall and the water treatment plant. The process included walking a grid with a GPS and a magnetometer to detect any anomalies in the earth.
Ten abandoned wells were found and need to be sealed to prevent contaminants from entering the aquifer through the pipes. Several are very near City Hall, in fact one is located underneath the building, which was once the first water treatment plant, built in the 1930s.
Before the well under City Hall can be pinpointed, asbestos needs to be removed.
Wednesday, Northland Drilling of Randall, flushed Well #12, on the corner of County Road 76 and Seventh Avenue Northeast, and Well #7, near City Hall. Air is pumped into the pipe to bring water up to get rid of sediment and debris before it is sealed.
Geoff Mash from the MDH said bentonite, a clay mineral, is used to seal the pipes because it swells up when it comes into contact with water.
Another part of the Wellhead Protection Plan includes educating the public.
Flyers have been sent to residents with utility bills, with information about where their drinking water comes from and practices that protect the groundwater aquifer used by the city wells from potential contaminant, Heinen said.
The newest addition to the education piece of the plan is a new website.
The website, also paid for with grant money, can be accessed from the city’s website at www.cityoflittle falls.com. The link is located on the right side of the city’s site and named “Drinking Water Protection.”
There, residents can find resources on maintaining septic tanks and protecting their well.
Also included are links to the MDH, Morrison County Soil and Water Conservation District, Minnesota Rural Water Association, the Environmental Protection Agency and contact information for the Little Falls water plant.