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CHS water tests continue, expected to end today

Approximately 2,300 total gallons of water per minute are being released by these three pipes as part of a test as seen recently south of Spiritwood. John M. Steiner The Sun

A pump test has sent 2,300 gallons of water per minute spilling onto the ground about 8 miles south of Spiritwood since April 23. The test ends today and is required by the North Dakota State Water Commission.

It is part of the permitting process for the proposed CHS nitrogen fertilizer plant that may be built near Spiritwood.

On April 1, CHS announced a delay to the final construction decision on the plant, which would produce farm fertilizer. CHS officials said in a press release on April 15 that the construction of the plant remains the company’s top priority. Recent estimated costs for the plant exceed $2 billion, making it the largest construction project in North Dakota history.

The pump test that concludes today consisted of the pump working around the clock for seven days. Monitor wells in the area, as well as wells owned by private individuals, are being checked to determine the effect the pumping has had on the levels of the Spiritwood aquifer, said Geneva Kaiser, manager of Stutsman Rural Water District, which is applying for water permits on behalf of CHS.

“We contacted all the landowners within a couple of miles of the test,” Kaiser said. “We’ve gotten no feedback from anyone, and that’s a really good sign.”

CHS has applied for permits of 4,800 acre-feet from the Spiritwood aquifer and 4,000 acre-feet from the Jamestown aquifer each year. An acre-foot of water is enough water to cover one acre of land to a depth of 1 foot — about 326,000 gallons. The pump test produced one acre-foot of water every 141 minutes and was designed to nearly match the proposed CHS plant’s water requirements of an average of 2,500 gallons of water per minute around the clock and peak usage of 3,000 gallons per minute.

Mitch Kannenberg, project manager for Leggette, Brashears & Graham, consultants on the water permit process, said the testing is going well although the dates of a final decision by the North Dakota Water Commission are still unknown.

“We have it on the fast track and I know they have it on the fast track,” he said.

The water from the Jamestown aquifer would be drawn from groundwater near the James River, Kaiser said. The water would be replaced by treated wastewater from the Jamestown wastewater treatment system going into the James River, Kaiser said.

Most of the water within the Jamestown aquifer and the bulk of the water in the James River are already permitted, largely for downstream irrigation use. Taking credit for adding the treated wastewater from Jamestown may allow more permits to be issued, Kaiser said.

“For each unit pumped out of the Jamestown aquifer, they (State Water Commission) are requiring one be put in,” said Reed Schwartzkopf, city engineer.

Schwartzkopf said the amount of water involved in the exchange is still being worked out. He characterizes the quality of the water as not meeting CHS’s needs but fit for discharge into the river.

“There will be a comment period in the next couple weeks on the plan,” Kaiser said. “Permit holders downstream can comment. We expect quite a few comments. There is a lot of interest downstream.”

Schwartzkopf said a number of water options in the area are being explored to meet CHS needs.

“What we’re trying to do is line up potential sources of water so someone at the State Water Commission can look at this and say it makes sense,” he said.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at