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City of Britt discusses water treatment

A diagram of the city of Britt with proposed improvements for the city's future water project.

In a best-case scenario, the city of Britt may be looking at a new water treatment facility being built and in operation by the year 2022.

That possibility was part of the information presented by Environmental Engineer Katie Sterk and Principal Engineer Wes Brown of Bolton & Menk, of Spencer.

The two made a presentation of preliminary engineering water system improvements at the Britt City Council meeting on Nov. 19.

The purpose of the report was to provide an evaluation of the city's entire water system and then make recommendations for proposed water treatment improvements. 

“We have the background information compiled and are working on proposed improvement alternatives,” Sterk said. “We want to get an idea as to where the city wants to head with the alternatives.

The firm identified two areas where permits were needed, the water treatment and distribution system.

Brown said the top priority identified was distribution.

Brown said the city's existing treatment plant and tower feeds into a distribution system through a four-inch pipe, which then connects to an eight-inch main that eventually leads to the newer water tower to the east.

"We felt it would be valuable to improve the three blocks of four-inch pipe as part of the water plant project," he said. 

The second priority identified was regarding the need to update the water treatment facility and alternative water treatments to help deal with current water treatment issues.

Sterk said the city has two wells that are in good condition and provide adequate and quality water, as well as are well maintained.

However, the wells are 80 to 107 years old, which is why Sterk and Brown recommended the city council keep in mind the need for another well is not so far off in the distant future.

“80- and 107-years-old is pretty old for continuously used wells,” Sterk said. “The treatment facility is 64-years-old and in pretty rough shape.

"So what we are looking at, in this report, is the recommendation for a new water treatment facility,” she said.

Sterk said drinking water treatments had certain testing levels requirements needing to be met, for example, arsenic, which is required to be at a standard level of .01 mg. per liter. The city is at .01 or .011 levels Sterk said.

“The filtration you have has reduced the arsenic level to almost nothing."

However, Sterk raised concerns regarding iron and manganese, which cause taste issues, staining and are considered secondary standards needing to be met.

In addition, when residents treat hard water, they are adding chlorides to the water treatment plant due to using water softeners in their homes, Sterk said.

"By doing this, it makes it difficult to remove the chlorides at the waste water facility," she said.  

Sterk said one thing to consider was whether or not to soften the city's water at the water treatment facility.

Alternative treatments discussed included reverse osmosis, filtration and chemical treatments.

Iron, magnesium and arsenic levels can be met with filtration and chemical treatment, similar to what is being done now. Except the city’s current plan does not have provisions for magnesium removal.

In addition, the water hardness reduction treatment options would include membrane (reverse osmosis) and lime softening, which for cities the size of Britt, is usually cost prohibited, Sterk said.

Alternatives presented included:

• Looking at building a filtration facility and continuing to let residents soften their water and deal with the water when it comes into the waste water facility.

• Building a facility now that softens the water.

• Building a facility big enough to fit the preferred softening method (reverse osmosis), but not installing the equipment. Rather start the filtration and construct a building sized for the piping to be added at a later time.

“I don’t have specific costs to give you right now,” Sterk said. “I can tell you reverse osmosis equipment costs are $6,000 and it would be at least that much or more plus an additional cost for piping.”

While no action was taken at the council meeting, council members were invited to take a tour of other plants using reverse osmosis and other filtration systems.

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Jesusa Christians is the Community Editor of the Forest City/Britt Summit-Tribune.

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