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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Tower-Soudan’s main well fails, back-up in place

Jodi Summit
Posted 6/19/24

BREITUNG TWP- A “catastrophic failure” of the pump shaft that operates Tower-Soudan’s primary drinking water well over the weekend has the system running off the backup well, …

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Tower-Soudan’s main well fails, back-up in place


BREITUNG TWP- A “catastrophic failure” of the pump shaft that operates Tower-Soudan’s primary drinking water well over the weekend has the system running off the backup well, something that hasn’t happened in the 26 years that Matt Tuchel has been in charge of the joint system for the neighboring communities.
“This is why we have backups,” he said.
According to Tuchel, the 45-year-old shaft broke right where it comes out of the motor. Plant operators were notified of the problem on Sunday when the water level in the water tower got low. Once they identified the issue, they began pumping water from the backup well to fill the tower. Tuchel said they have been doing frequent testing of water quality, but so far, the water quality from the backup well is up to standards.
Both wells are scheduled to have major rehabilitative work done over the next year as part of the multi-million-dollar upgrades to the water filtration system. Work to be done includes replacing the pumps and motors, upgrading the electrical components, adding new valves and flow meters, and new piping. The new filtration plant has been designed to filter out byproducts of the water purification/chlorination process, which have tested at higher-than-acceptable levels in the past, though have been below EPA action level limits the past two years.
Tuchel is hoping that while the main well is down, some of these scheduled upgrades can be completed immediately, so they don’t have to spend money on repairs that will just get replaced as part of the planned upgrade project. The contracts for the work were just signed last week.
“We will be asking the contractor to do work that isn’t on their current work schedule,” he said. Tuchel will be working with the contractor and project engineers. A preconstruction meeting and site visit was already set for June 24.
Both wells are relatively shallow and close to the East Two River, and sometimes draw in surface water, which can have organic matter contaminants. The backup well is closer to the river than the main well, so Tuchel said frequent testing will be done to ensure water quality and safety.
The water filtration plant upgrades will most likely be completed in 2025, Tuchel said.
“The new filters will take at least four months to be built,” he said.
A pilot plant set up several years ago determined the best way to filter the water, and a step filtration system was chosen as the most reliable and cost-effective way to treat the water, remove minerals like manganese and iron, and thihalomethanes, a byproduct of chlorination.
Consumer confidence report
The 2023 Water Drinking Reports for both Tower and Breitung were recently released. Full copies of the reports are available at the Breitung Township Office and Tower City Hall if anyone is interested in the detailed information. Water testing for both systems showed no items of concern.
For the second year in a row, levels of trihalomethanes came in below EPA limits, but still higher than plant operators would like. The average trihalomethanes for Tower were 62.5 ppb, and Breitung averaged 53.1 ppb. The action level set by the EPA is 80 ppb, with no ideal lower limit. The levels for haloacetic acid were 41 ppb for Tower and 45 ppb for Breitung. The action level is 60 ppb, also with no ideal lower limit.
Testing for lead and copper did not show any samples above acceptable limits for both Tower and Breitung. Water in Breitung is also sampled for barium, which can be related to mining, and showed 0.03 ppm, under the EPA limit of 2 ppm.
The report for the city did note that water samples taken in August were invalidated. Tuchel said this was due to the water testing lab losing the samples, which had been dropped off, in person, at the testing lab. Subsequent tests done, which were outside the normal testing window, did not show any results above EPA limits.