Work continues to improve water treatment plant

Work is progressing at the city's water treatment plant and officials are hopeful that upgrades and additions to the facility will be completed by the end of the month.

John M. Steiner / The Sun Steve Suko, director of city utility operations, stands Friday in the pipe gallery of the new part of the water treatment plant.

Work is progressing at the city's water treatment plant and officials are hopeful that upgrades and additions to the facility will be completed by the end of the month.

"We're getting fairly close to what we could call substantial completion," said Steve Suko, director of city utility operations.

Starting in July the treatment plant underwent $4 million worth of upgrades and additions to keep up with demand and create some redundancies in the water treatment system. If one part of the system fails another part will be there to take its place.

What once was a giant hole in the ground at the plant's site has turned into an additional three filter bays, which hold water before it goes into the city's 2-million-gallon holding tank located inside the hill by Frontier Village.

"It really does look night and day difference from last year," said Jim Hubbard, project engineer with Interstate Engineering, which designed and is overseeing the project.


In addition to the filter bays, massive rotating tubs used to soften the water, called Accelators, were refurbished. What used to be a difficult environment to place a phone call has quieted down to a reasonable hum.

To Hubbard, the upgrades and additions are instrumental to the vitality of Jamestown.

"I think what's most important in your city is drinking water. If you lose that you lose your city," Hubbard said.

When the upgrades are completed the plant will have the ability to filter and treat 7.2 million gallons of water a day. Currently max capacity is slightly more than 6 million gallons, but because of the seasonal demand only about 2 million gallons get treated a day.

"Once this is complete and operational we're going to be in really good shape," Suko said.

Water comes from the city's six wells in or near McElroy Park. From there it goes through a variety of procedures to filter and add compounds like calcium oxide to soften it or fluoride for stronger bones and teeth.

Calcium oxide, or quicklime, is a major part of the process. For every million gallons of water treated 3,000 pounds of quicklime are used.

One part of the project at the treatment plant is a quicklime silo, which Suko estimates can hold 160,000 pounds of the compound. This allows for an extra supply when water consumption is high during the summer months. It should be enough of a supply to last anywhere from one to two weeks.


Plus, the quicklime is now delivered to the plant in a dust-free manner. Before workers looked like they rolled around in flour or talcum powder.

"From an operational standpoint in the plant ... one of the biggest benefits is the lime delivery system," Suko said.

However, the project has had some setbacks.

The original completion date was set for July and the city granted an extension to Oct. 7. Now that the date has passed, the contractor, PKG Contractors in Fargo, must pay $1,500 for each additional day, as per the contract with the city.

A representative from PKG couldn't be reached for comment.

"The biggest challenge for this project has been schedule," Hubbard said.

One reason for the delay is the stimulus package.

The upgrade, being part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is required to use American-made parts. Couple that with the fact that there are several of these projects taking place around the country and being able to locate specific parts becomes difficult, Hubbard said.


"Weather has also played a huge factor in this early," Suko said. "It's hard to get going when you're standing in two feet of water."

Hubbard said there are a number of variables when trying to pin down a date when the plant will be operational with all of the upgrades and additions. He speculated that it could be completed by the end of the month.

"They are doing good work and we will have a good water treatment plant when they are done," he said.

Sun writer Ben Rodgers can be reached at (701) 952-8455 or by email at

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