The Swanville City Council directed City Engineer Clif Allen with Moore Engineering to start looking for funding options for the city to build a new water tower within the next two or three years.
The decision at Tuesday’s meeting to move ahead came as a result of a call and a letter the city received from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) that stated the results from an inspection showed that the tower has significant deficiencies.
Although the report highlights many areas the tower needs to be repaired or reconditioned, the MDH’s main concerns are deficiencies that “may allow contamination of the finished drinking water and creates a potential direct entry point for birds and other vector organisms.”
At this time, the water tower has several holes in the roof of the elevated storage tank, is missing rivets, which results in another type of hole, is missing a weld or open penetration at the top of the roof, has a gap in the roof panel and the overflow does not meet standards.
The MDH has directed the city to develop an appropriate action plan within 30 days of receiving the letter. At a minimum, the plan must outline that either the city will correct all of the significant deficiencies, eliminate the source of contamination or provide an approved alternate source of water.
The letter also stated that commercially bottled water is not an approved permanent alternate source of water and that “all corrective actions must comply with applicable plan review requirements, MDH guidance and MDH-specified interim measures.
The city has 120 days after the receipt of the letter to complete the corrective action or to comply with an MDH-approved corrective action agreement. Once the corrective action is completed, the city has to contact MDH within 30 days to “schedule a follow-up site investigation to confirm the adequacy of the corrective action.”
If the city does not complete corrective actions within 120 days or comply with a MDH-approved corrective action agreement, Swanville’s water system will be placed in violation of the Ground Water Rule provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act, 40 CFR 141,400; and 40 CFR 141.173, CFR 141, 174 and CFR 142.16 for Surface Water Systems.
“A violation may result in increased enforcement action from the MDH or the United States Environmental Protection Agency,” the letter said.
Because of the water tower’s current condition, the MDH is now requiring the city to conduct bacteriological testing at the finished water storage weekly and conduct chlorine residual monitoring daily at the finished water storage and one other site on the distribution system starting the date of the letter, Feb. 4.
Previously, the bacteriological testing was performed once a month and the chlorine residual on a weekly basis.
Allen, as he drank from a cup of tap water he had poured himself, told the Council that there is nothing wrong with the water in Swanville and that it is safe to drink. He also explained the role of chlorine in the water.
“Chlorine, for those of you who don’t know, is what keeps your water safe. If something gets into your water to contaminate it, chlorine oxidizes or kills any kind of bacteria. The increased testing is just a precaution,” he said.
Mayor Sandy Lange said the next step is to come up with a plan to meet MDH’s requirement while moving forward with finding funding to build a new water tower as well as about how much it would cost.
“It’s a lot of money, but it’s more cost effective to build a new tower than trying to repair the old one,” she said.
The 60,000-gallon capacity riveted, lattice legged and conical roof water tower was built by Minnesota Steel and Machinery in 1931. Owner records indicate that the interior and exterior wet coatings were last replaced in 1998 by Maguire Iron.
An analysis showed that the interior wet coating has a 0.017% lead content and the exterior wet coating a 3.3% and 15% lead content,
At the present time, the coatings are in poor overall condition with more than 50% visible coating failures. Allen said the reason for coating the tower is to keep the metal from rusting.
The inspection, which was completed Nov. 1, 2016, and the results published in a report by KLM Engineering in July 2019, also determined that the existing balcony (catwalk) handrail around the tower does not meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the American Water Works Association (AWWA) strength requirements or the requirement for a mid rail (toe board) and that access from the leg ladder to the balcony is difficult and may be unsafe
“The biggest challenge will be to get up there and getting access to all these areas,” Allen said.
In addition, there are also several other constructional repairs that would need to be addressed if a new tower is not built in the near future.
In response to MDH’s letter, Lange said she understands they are doing their job and that she is hoping that MDH will understand that it will take some time to build a new tower.
“Hopefully they’ll understand that we don’t really want to put a lot of money into the old one, but we will definitely do what we need to do to make the water safe and continue to making the water safe to drink.
Swanville City Council Briefs
In other business Tuesday, the Swanville City Council:
• Approved rezoning Parcel A, the lot west of Sharon Blumke at North Berkey Avenue, from industrial to residential and selling it to her for $1,545;
• Approved selling lot 3, block 2 at North Berkey Avenue to Frank Gessell for $2,000;
• Vacated drainage and utility easements located in block 2 of the plat of Swanville Industrial Park;
• At the request of Bryan Allen, approved adding Dereck Pfeiffer to the liquor license for Lucky’s Saloon for one year;
• Approved increasing the salary of Maintenance Man Lonnie Hutchins from $44,000 per year to $45,320 per year, an increase of $1,320 per year (3%) and to continue to pay his cellphone bill, 60% of health care and disability insurance and two weeks of paid vacation. The last time Hutchins’ received a raise was in 2017. Mayor Sandy Lange abstained from voting; and
• Approved raising the salary of City Clerk Julie Hollermann to $1,273.08 per month, a $37.08 per month (3%) increase, and continue to pay her $20 per hour for special meetings.
The Swanville City Council’s next regular meeting will be Tuesday, March 10, at 7 p.m. at the Swanville Center. The regular meeting time of the first Tuesday of each month was moved since by law a government meeting cannot be held the same day as the presidential primary.