New Brighton transitions back to its own water

After the Minnesota Department of Health notified New Brighton in 2016 of finding a pollutant called dioxane in its well water, the city had been getting water from Minneapolis ever since.

During the last week of September, the city began transitioning back to its own wells.

“This is a huge milestone in getting back to our own water sources,” said New Brighton Public Works Superintendent Scott Boller. 

New Brighton officials said the transition, which includes flushing Minneapolis water treatment chemicals out of the water system in favor of New Brighton-specific treatments, should be complete early this month.

“I’m pleased with how smoothly its going,” said New Brighton City Manager Dean Lotter. 

New Brighton’s Water Treatment Plant 1 is still under construction and is slated to be finished this fall. The transition away from Minneapolis water is “an interim step,” said Lotter, with the city using its limited-capacity wells in the lower-demand months for water, before transitioning to its deep wells.

 

Chem talk 

New Brighton and Minneapolis get water in different ways and are much different in size. On top of regulatory standards, each city also has its own specific treatment plans. 

Minneapolis gets water from the Mississippi River, a surface water source, which is treated differently than water from wells.

In transitioning New Brighton back to its well water, the chemical treatment for surface water needs to be cleared before returning to New Brighton-specific water, which is treated with chlorine as opposed to Minneapolis’ chloramine-based treatment. 

“I’m very excited to be back maintaining our own water system,” said Boller, adding the reminder that New Brighton water is hard and that residents should have their water softeners ready. 

He offered another heads up, this time for residents with aquariums. The next time they fill up their fish’s home with water, it will no longer contain the chloramine from Minneapolis, but New Brighton’s chlorine-treated water. 

 

Contamination history

The Minnesota Department of Health identified groundwater contamination in New Brighton in 1981, and the city took steps to deal with its polluted water.

The contamination was traced back to the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills and the city sued the U.S. Army in 1984 to recoup its costs associated with the water pollution. 

Three years later, the Army admitted it was responsible for the pollution and in 1988 it entered into a settlement agreement to pay for the city’s continued water treatment needs.

In 1992, the Army paid New Brighton $17 million; in 2014, the city sued the Army to enforce terms of the settlement agreement. The two parties settled that suit in January of 2015, with the Army agreeing to pay nearly $60 million to cover the city’s next 30 years of water treatment needs. 

MDH detected, in 2016, what it called “trace amounts” of dioxane — 2.9 parts per billion to 5.5 ppb — in New Brighton water. Dioxane isn’t covered by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, though the department of health set an advisory limit on dioxane at 1 ppb.

New Brighton began getting water from Minneapolis while it worked on treatment plants and plans for a long-term solution. 

“The treatment center is like a straw,” said Lotter. It’s specifically designed to suck up the plume of toxins while also getting “safe, reliable,” water for New Brighton. 

 

-Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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