Water woes: Jamestown water plant sediment ponds filling up while city looks for solutionsBringing the Jamestown water treatment plant into compliance with the North Dakota Department of Health regulations has created a new problem, according to Larry Thelen, administrator of the department’s drinking water program.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Bringing the Jamestown water treatment plant into compliance with the North Dakota Department of Health regulations has created a new problem, according to Larry Thelen, administrator of the department’s drinking water program.
The water plant uses about 5 million gallons of water each month to wash the filters and remove the lime used to treat the water before it enters the water distribution system, according to Reed Schwartzkopf, city engineer. This is part of the roughly 60 million gallons the water plant processes each month.
In the past, water accumulated in ponds or lagoons near the treatment plant. The lime and other solids settled to the bottom of the ponds and the water was then pumped back into the water treatment plant and processed. That process was stopped when the state Health Department brought the issue to the city’s attention.
“They were recycling water back into the water treatment plant,” Thelen said. “Now that they don’t recycle water to the plant, there is no problem. Now they have to determine how to handle that water.”
Thelen said the problem was discovered during a routine inspection and not prompted by water quality or safety issues.
Schwartzkopf said water treatment plants that process surface water — water that has been stored outdoors in open air — must operate to a higher standard. Because the Jamestown plant did not meet those standards it was ordered to not bring the water back into the plant for processing.
Plants that process surface water must have more filtration and undergo water quality testing more frequently than water treatment plants that use well water as Jamestown does.
Instead, the water is accumulating in the ponds located south of the water plant. Schwartzkopf estimated those ponds will overflow around Christmas if another solution is not found.
“There is a lot of urgency to this,” he said. “The water in the ponds cannot go into the environment for numerous water quality issues. It would be an illegal discharge.”
Because the water contains a high concentration of the lime used in the treatment plant, it would require processing before it could be discharged into a river.
“We’re looking at possible options,” Schwartzkopf said. “We’re looking at making adjustments to the operations at the water plant to delay the overflow.”
A consultant has been retained to study the operations at the water plant to see if the amount of water used to flush the system could be reduced.
“We need to find a short-term solution that gets us through the winter, a middle-term solution for the next year and a permanent solution,” Schwartzkopf said.
The Jamestown City Council approved $15,000 for engineering work to begin planning these solutions. Engineers’ plans are anticipated within two weeks. At that time, any construction required could be contracted with an expedited work schedule.
One option would use an overland pipe to transport the discarded water to the nearest sanitary sewer with enough capacity, Schwartzkopf said. The water would then be treated at the wastewater plant. Cost estimates for this concept would depend on where the pipes could connect to the sewer system and are not available.
“In a flood scenario the city sewer system may not be able to handle the extra water,” Schwartzkopf said.
Another option would be seeking a limited discharge permit from the state, he said. This special permit would likely contain limits on length of time and amount of water that could be discharged.
The long-term solution most likely includes adding an enclosed water tank to hold the water before it is recycled into the water plant. Costs of this idea were originally placed about $1.65 million.
“Recycling the backwash water is not uncommon,” Thelen said. “But those cities keep it in enclosed tanks.”
Schwartzkopf said the idea of modifying the plant to meet the surface water standards has been discarded because of high costs of modifying the plant and continued higher costs of operations including additional staff.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org