Randall is continuing to deal with the fallout from a June flash flood that left much of the city under water.
The brunt of the damage sustained by public infrastructure was felt at the city’s water treatment plant. It has not been operational since June 24, so the city has been providing water service to residents via its back-up well.
Monday, an incident at “Well 2” left the city temporarily out of water. Once the system was back up and running, the city was under a boil water advisory until Tuesday evening.
“A pipe sprung a leak and the well continued pumping water to the ground rather than the tower, causing a loss in pressure,” said City Manager Matt Pantzke, in an update to the City Council, Wednesday.
City staff contacted the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and followed all guidelines in putting the boil order into effect. Pantzke said the initial report of the issue came in at about 7 a.m. Monday, and by 11:30 a.m. the well was running and delivering water.
The situation got to the point where the water tower was completely empty, in part, due to the water plant being out of service. The equipment in Well 2 continued to run, and there was no indication that there was an issue. Pantzke said the alarm system that normally alerts staff of any failure is in the water treatment plant.
“When the equipment is damaged because of the flood, there’s no way for it to notify us that there is an issue,” he said. “The call that I received was for a loss of pressure on the end of the distribution system. We sprang into action and repaired it as fast as we could.”
Pantzke said Northland Drilling was “nothing short of amazing” in its response to the city’s needs. He said the Randall contractor has consistently come through for the city in a prompt and affordable fashion whenever issues arise.
“For being notified at 6:30 in the morning and having it up and operational by 11:30 — yes, we have some outstanding vendors, but it’s the city staff that had to get those vendors available,” said Mayor Danny L. Noss. “It’s amazing that it only took that long. They need to be commended for their hard work and professionalism, as they do every day.”
Dave Reese of Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates (Widseth) gave the Council an update on the preliminary damage report at the water treatment plant. The process is complete.
He said the next step will be to get the plant and the well up and running. In order to do so, a plan will need to be submitted to the MDH for review. Reese said that will take a “phased approach.”
“The approach that we spoke to MDH about was, first going in and getting all of the electric equipment energized and making sure that has power to the well, for instance, so we don’t get all of these other groups of people there and nothing will work,” Reese said. “We want to get that squared away first.”
To get the well itself running, Reese suggested involving a construction manager, such as Rice Lake — which built the facility. He also said the city should contact Northland Well Drilling to have them ready to begin the disinfection and pumping process.
Reese said they will likely have to pump water through the plant and out into the backwash tank. That will be done at a rate of about 150 gallons per minute, for 30 - 45 minutes.
“Likely, the program is going to involve some hard pumping on that system,” he said. “To pull any contamination that we can out into the aquifer, pull it back in and now we can disinfect it.”
Noss said he had heard it could be eight or nine months before the plant is fully operational again. He asked if that’s how long the work will actually take, or if much of that time will be spent waiting due to scheduling and lead times in getting equipment.
Reese said the “big wait” would be items that need to be replaced that are on a long lead time. With that being the case, he said the approach he suggested was, once the well passes MDH requirements and is disinfected, to get the chemical feed back up and bypass the detention tank and filters. Essentially, the well would be running just as Well 2 is now.
“You’ll be sending unfiltered water out into the distribution system, but it will be chlorinated and clean, tested out water for consumption,” Reese said. “It just won’t be filtered.”
Once the plant is fully online, he said there is still going to be unfiltered water in the system. It will likely take a couple of weeks after the filters are back in operation before the water returns to the quality it was at prior to the disruption.
“There’s going to be that period of, ‘Hey, my water isn’t quite what I am used to,’” Reese said. “Then it will go back to it. You might be able to help that along a little bit by flushing hydrants and some things during that period.”
Pantzke also updated the Council on his meeting with Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) last month. He submitted all of the damage to public infrastructure that has been tracked, so far. That includes the water treatment plant, Third Street — which sustained heavy damage due to erosion — and a driveway that was washed out in the flood.
As those items get repaired and processed, he said the city will get reimbursed for 75% of the cost, as the event is deemed a “state level disaster.” The city is responsible for the other 25%.
“To reach a federal disaster level, it has to be a certain dollar amount,” Pantzke said. “It doesn’t sound like it reached that level. I’m fairly confident it will remain a state level disaster.”
The estimated cost, at this point, is $340,000. Pantzke said more issues will be reported as they pop up moving forward.
“Any flood-related expenses that we had, I submitted,” he said. “Based on the conversation that we had, it sounded like they were all eligible for reimbursement.”
In terms of those impacted by the flood, Pantzke said the Initiative Foundation was handling disbursement of funds raised for homeowners, businesses and organizations as part of the recovery effort. The foundation’s pastoral committee met, Aug. 2, to review the applications. It formed a criteria for damage and awarded a certain number of points to each applicant, with 10 being the maximum rating.
In all, he said there were 31 residential and two non-profit applicants for relief funding. Enough was raised, based on the level of applicants, that the Foundation could disperse $500 for every point. Only one application received a 10, meaning it got $5,000.
“There was a very calculated method to determine, based on the application, what level of damage they had,” Pantzke said. “I think, from what I’ve heard, people are extremely grateful. I think, the dollars a lot of people received from this in addition to any insurance dollars or whatever funds they may have had, will meet their needs.”
He said there are still fundraising efforts underway, and the Initiative Foundation is exploring partnerships and opportunities to raise more for impacted residents. There likely will be a second round of disbursement at some point, though Pantzke said it will likely be smaller than the initial funding period.
“There was a phenomenal amount of people that came together to donate these funds to help people out in need,” he said. “I’m hopeful that everybody that applied and received something is pleased — or it helps them get back on their feet.”
Randall City Council Briefs:
In other business Wednesday, the Randall City Council:
• Approved its annual donation of $750 to the Initiative Foundation;
• Approved a request to have Dave Reese of Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates apply for a Small Cities Development Program grant to help pay for a major public improvement project slated for 2023;
• Passed a pair of resolutions to order the preparation of a report regarding the impacted areas from the aforementioned public improvement project;
• Discussed the possibility of placing a one-year moratorium on the sale of products containing THC within the city. The intoxicating component found in marijuana, THC levels of up to 5% in items such as gummies and edibles became legal in Minnesota, July 1.
Mayor Danny L. Noss made a motion to put a moratorium in place, but it failed due to the lack of a second;
• Discussed the possible purchase of a building that could be used as a city shop. They ultimately decided, by vote, to explore the purchase further and call a special meeting to approve a purchase, if necessary;
• Approved a request to sell the former skating rink warming house, which was damaged in the June 24 flood, on MinnBid; and
• Heard from City Manager Matt Pantzke that the city’s wellhead protection plan will likely be complete and ready for implementation by the end of the year. It will cover the city for 10 years.
The next meeting of the Randall City Council is a public hearing on homeowner assessments, scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Bingo Park.