By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN If Lester Prairie’s water seems clearer and tastier than normal, that’s because it is.
The city’s new water treatment facility has been up and running since April 17, and many residents have already noticed a difference.
“When I see people in town, I stop and ask them how their water quality is,” said water treatment operator Lee Ortloff, who is contracted through PeopleService.
So far, the feedback has been all positive.
“Right now, we’re taking out pretty much 100 percent of the iron in the water,” Ortloff said. “It’s been working very well.”
The system’s finishing touches are still in the works, but should be completed soon.
For example, hydrants will be flushed Thursday, May 10 and Friday, May 11, which will clear the pipes.
In the past, Lester Prairie’s hydrants were flushed three times per year, because of brown water complaints.
With the new system, they will be flushed again in the fall, but then move to a yearly schedule.
“That’s what most towns do,” Ortloff explained.
Ortloff has also been fine-tuning the facility’s chemical dosages.
“We’ve been having a problem with manganese removal, but we should have that corrected by the time we flush hydrants,” he said.
An early start
The water treatment plant was completed ahead of schedule.
“This was supposed to be done the end of June,” Ortloff said. “With the open winter, everybody could keep working, and everything got done.”
The new system is hooked up to the two main wells in town. A third well, which is for emergency use, is not connected to the treatment facility.
The total cost of the project, including the 34-by-63-foot building, was $1,284,000.
The plant is rated for 350 gallons per minute, or 420,000 gallons per day, with 20 hours of run time per day.
The majority of the year, Lester Prairie goes through about 120,000 gallons per day.
“In the summer, we’ll easily double that,” Ortloff said.
One of the most visible differences in Lester Prairie’s water quality is iron removal. Before the water goes through the filter, it has between 1.75 to 2.20 milligrams of iron per liter.
Although iron and manganese are not a health risk, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends removal for aesthetic reasons.
High iron levels tend to produce rusty-colored water, sediment, metallic taste, and reddish or orange staining, according to the EPA website. Similarly, manganese can cause black to brown colored water, black staining, and a bitter metallic taste.
Left untreated, Lester Prairie’s iron and manganese levels are above preferred aesthetic standards.
After the water has been filtered, chlorine (a disinfectant), fluoride (used for dental health), and orthophosphate (a corrosion inhibitor) are added.
Maintenance of the system includes monthly chlorinating of the water tank to prevent bacterial growth, weekly backwashes (reversing the flow to drain minerals into the wastewater treatment facility), and continual monitoring of water quality.