By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie’s water treatment facility just had its first birthday a milestone the town celebrated with plenty of drinking (drinks of clean, clear water, of course).
“Since the facility’s been here, it has run really well,” said water treatment operator Lee Ortloff, who is contracted through PeopleService. “We’ve had good comments; people notice that the water tastes a little better.”
In the past, Ortloff heard 20 to 30 complaints each year regarding Lester Prairie’s water quality.
“We flushed hydrants two or three times a year, just to stay ahead of the brown water,” he recalled.
When water quality was at its worst, residents would take bottles of caramel-colored water to city hall to show as an example.
Fortunately, all that is over now.
“The water is good and clear,” Ortloff said. “We’re very pleased with the performance so far.”
Residents have told Ortloff their water softeners don’t have to work as hard anymore, and that the water feels much softer.
Iron (which causes rusty-colored water, sediment, metallic taste, and reddish or orange staining) is being 100 percent removed with the filters at the treatment facility. Untreated, Lester Prairie’s water contains between 1.75 to 2.20 milligrams of iron per liter.
Another mineral, manganese, is also being taken out. High levels of manganese can cause black- to brown-colored water, black staining, and a bitter, metallic taste.
“That’s not 100 percent removed, but it’s greatly reduced,” Ortloff said.
Iron and manganese are not a health risk, but the Environmental Protection Agency recommends removal for aesthetic reasons.
After the water has been filtered, chlorine (a disinfectant), fluoride (used for dental health), and orthophosphate (a corrosion inhibitor) are added.
A few residents have commented that they can smell the chlorine more now, but Ortloff said the water actually contains less chlorine than it used to. The reason it may be more noticeable now is only because other materials (such as iron and manganese) are no longer masking the scent.
The amount of chemical treatment is continuously being monitored and tested, and samples are frequently sent to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Hydrant flushing (which removes sediment from pipes) is another component of water quality maintenance. After hydrant flushing, it’s not uncommon to have discolored water for a short time, because sediment has just been flushed out of the pipes. In Lester Prairie, hydrants were flushed in June 2012, and again this year in early May.
One maintenance task that’s done weekly is a filter-cleaning process called “backwashing.”
During backwashing, 8,000 gallons of water is run through the filters, at a speed of about 450 gallons per minute. At first, the water draining out of the filter is a dark caramel color but within a few minutes, it lightens to resemble pale wheat.
Residents with water quality comments or questions are encouraged to contact city hall at (320) 395-2646.