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Kenmare turns on the tap for NAWS water

With the thermometer shivering at 6 degrees below zero, the valves were opened Monday between the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) and the city of Kenmare water distribution lines.

12/09/09 (Wed)


By Caroline Downs
With the thermometer shivering at 6 degrees below zero, the valves were opened Monday between the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) and the city of Kenmare water distribution lines.
Kenmare now receives its water supply from the city of Minot and will continue to do so until the NAWS system has the capability of treating and distributing water from the Missouri River at Lake Sakakawea through its lines.
“This is the day we’ve been waiting for,” said Kenmare mayor Roger Ness. “This is one more step for us.”
He added that Kenmare still has to build a new water tower and install a pressure regulating system to complete the upgrade to the city’s municipal water system. Those projects will likely be bid in January or February 2010. “We’re planning a celebration next year when everything’s done,” he said.
Many residents may want to celebrate now, knowing the water coming from their taps, filling their toilets or rinsing loads of laundry no longer contains the tannins and other solutes that have characterized Kenmare’s water for decades.
However, don’t fill that coffee pot at the kitchen sink just yet. “It’s not something you’re going to notice today,” said Ness.
The entire Kenmare system has to be flushed. City employee Mike Thompson and city engineer Ryan Ackerman of Ackerman-Estvold Engineering in Minot already started that process, but it’s going to take some time.
Ness said the water pipes throughout town hold about 80,000 gallons of water, the tower holds between 25,000 and 30,000 gallons, and businesses and residences serve as another storage site for water. City employees drew down the city’s cistern and tank as much as they could to maintain service before the valves were opened to the NAWS line, but the lines are still filled with old Kenmare water.
On Monday, Ackerman and Thompson discussed a strategy for flushing hydrants around town. They were concerned about creating sheets of ice for drivers, given the week’s forecast of single digit high temperature readings.
“We’ll attempt to divert any water away from the streets,” said Ackerman. “We want to develop a flushing program to minimize impact to streets and properties.”
Michelle Klose, NAWS project manager from Bismarck, recommended that homeowners do their part to flush their own lines. “Citizens should run their taps for a few minutes extra,” she said. “It will take a little time, but you’ll see the water clear up once you run it a while.”
She emphasized the change to Minot city water could take several days, a prediction supported by Ackerman. “The city will start flushing right away, but these transitions always take a little bit longer than you expect,” said Klose.
Ackerman said residents should not notice any changes in their home water pressure over the next few days. “This will be no different than the regular flushing process,” he said.
Perry Weiner, water resource senior manager with the State Water Commission, cautioned residents and businesses who own older hot water heaters. “That clean, clear water acts like flushing a radiator,” he said, “and you could see leaks. We’ve seen that a lot in the Southwest Area Water Supply project.”
New water, new billing rates
The new water comes with an increased billing rate that went into effect December 1st. The basic monthly fee remains $23, but the rate per 1000 gallons has been raised from $2.50 to $5.00.
“People will see that on their December billing,” said city auditor Mary Brekhus. Those statements will be printed later this month. “You have to pay by January 10th.”
That new rate may require further adjustment as the project continues. “We’re going to have to take a look when the project gets done and re-evaluate,” Ness said.
Ness and Brekhus noted that approximately 75 water meters still need to be replaced at locations around town. The new meters will allow remote readings to be taken. According to Brekhus, the city has about 550 meters in service throughout town.
Kenmare uses an average of 116,000 gallons of water per day. The city of Minot will provide 120,000 gallons of water to flush the system.
Judge reviewing NAWS lawsuit
While Klose was in Kenmare on Monday, she informed Ness about the status of the lawsuit filed by the province of Manitoba and joined by the state of Missouri to stop the NAWS project. An injunction was imposed on any design and construction work on the treatment plant for Missouri River water until the suit is resolved, but the judge has allowed construction of the pipeline itself.
Final documents were submitted on behalf of NAWS in mid-November. Klose noted the judge filed an order last Thursday requesting more information regarding the placement of pipe in one particular location. The explanation must be given to the court by Friday, December 11th.
“It’s good she has responded to what we submitted earlier,” Klose said.
Now in compliance
for arsenic standard
The city of Kenmare has had an adequate supply of water for years from the city’s two deep wells. However, the quality of the water has been less than satisfactory for many local residents, who often purchase water for drinking and resign themselves to discolored garments, towels and bedding after a few rounds through the washing machine.
When federal regulations went into effect in 2006 to reduce arsenic levels in municipal water supplies from 50 to 10 parts per billion, Kenmare water was found to be in violation. Samples showed arsenic levels at 11 to 14 ppb. “It wasn’t dangerous, but it was out of compliance,” Ness explained.
After examining several plans to bring the city’s water supply into compliance with the arsenic standard, the city council agreed to purchase water from the city of Minot for delivery through the NAWS system.
“In any strategic planning session we’ve ever had, water quality is the key issue,” Ness said. “This is going to be great for the future of Kenmare, to have water that’s high quality. Water is one of the most important commodities.”
Klose joined Ness in celebrating completion of this part of the NAWS project. “The community has been looking at different options,” she said. “There’s been so much effort for construction, funding, communities working together, to keep this project going.”
Minot is currently supplying water through the NAWS system to Berthold, with Kenmare in service and the Upper Souris Water District scheduled to come online within the next few weeks. Pipeline construction to Sherwood, Mohall and the All Seasons Water District should be finished next summer. “Next year, we’ll have a couple more communities coming on,” said Klose.
Alan Walter, Minot city public works director, has predicted Minot has enough water to fulfill the needs of the entire system during off-peak usage in the fall and winter months, with the outlying systems prepared to blend Minot water with their current sources for peak usage months.
Ness said Kenmare will consider blending its water, but the city council may also look at restricted use of water for yards and gardens during the summer months to reduce or eliminate the need for blending.
He praised the city of Minot and the State Water Commission for their cooperation on the NAWS project through the years and the commitment made to residents and communities of the northwest corner of the state.
“The stars must have been aligned just right to get this many entities working together in such a short time,” Ness said. “I give credit to Alan Walter and his department in Minot. They have been key to this project. And to the city of Minot and the Magic Fund for paying for much of this, and supplying this region with water until we can get water out of Lake Sakakawea.”