SOUDAN- Senate Capital Investment Committee Chair Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) and members of the Capital Investment Committee visited Soudan on Sept. 6, as part of a tour of more than 20 …
SOUDAN- Senate Capital Investment Committee Chair Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) and members of the Capital Investment Committee visited Soudan on Sept. 6, as part of a tour of more than 20 communities in northeast Minnesota to learn about nearly 40 proposed projects that are requesting state funds, meet with local officials and tour project sites.
In Soudan, Tower-Breitung Wastewater Plant Supervisor Matt Tuchel, along with Tower Clerk/Treasurer Michael Schultz, gave an overview of the water treatment facility project, which is requesting $3 million in state bonding dollars.
The original water treatment plant, built about 25 years ago for $1.3 million, was built to filter out iron and manganese from the public water supply, which consists of two wells, drilled in 1979 and 1982. But recent testing has shown that about 30-percent of the well water being drawn is surface water from the adjacent East Two River. Tuchel explained that a study done by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in 2016 showed the potential of viral and bacterial contamination in the wells, which have been addressed by increased chlorination. But the increased chlorination has its own side effects, creating excess levels of trihalomethane and haloacetic acid, which carry long-term health risks if not addressed. MDH has recommended that a new treatment system be installed, Tuchel said.
“We don’t have a backup chlorination system if ours fails,” said Tuchel.
Drilling new wells would be a risk, Tuchel explained. The current wells each produce 250 gallons per minute, enough to support the water needs for the approximately 1,000 residents in Tower and Soudan, along with the large summer tourist population. The new well drilled at the campground at the Lake Vermilion State Park only produces nine gallons per minute, nowhere near enough to support a municipal system, he said.
Plans for the new system include a double treatment system, so there is a backup in case one fails, a ground storage tank, and a new building to house the treatment facility. The engineering and design are already completed, which was funded through a loan from Minnesota Rural Water Association. The design will be focused on treating surface water, not ground water. The total cost of the project has ballooned since it was first proposed from $4.5 to $8 million. The project has received a $3.375 million grant from the Army Corp, and is asking for $3 million from the state. The remainder would be funded locally, with either grant or loan funds from the Public Facilities Authority, a state agency that helps fund such projects.
“Customer rates will increase with this new plant,” said Schultz. “But we have to do it.” Currently customers in Tower pay $253.50 per quarter for water and sewer, and in Soudan they pay $195 per quarter. Excess water usage is billed to each business or residence that exceeds the minimum/normal usage.
Both Tuchel and Schultz said they were happy with the visit, and glad they had enough time to present a good overview of the problems facing the water supply, and the need for state bonding assistance. The Minnesota State Legislature will take up the request in the 2024 session, which begins in February.
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