Council approves specs for near-term water treatment plant

The Bemidji City Council approved specifications and authorized City Engineer Craig Gray to advertise for bids for a near-term water treatment plant.

The near-term plant, with an estimated cost around $6 million, will be used in conjunction with the long-term plant, which would bring the total cost for water treatment for the city’s water supply to $16 million.

The near-term plant is scheduled to be operational before the end of this year.

The city has requested bonding dollars to help cover half of the project cost, and an additional sales tax.

City Finance Director Ron Eischens says that if the city doesn’t receive bonding dollars or a local sales tax, in a worst-case scenario, water utility rates would increase by 43 percent.

If they receive bonding dollars and no sales tax, water rates would increase by about 20 percent.

Even with sales tax and bonding dollars in place, water rates would also likely increase by some percentage, as the maintenance for the water treatment plant could be as high as $100,000 every one to two years to replace the carbon filters.

The water treatment plant would also treat for iron and manganese, because according to officials at Barr Engineering, those elements must be removed before PFAs can be treated.

The city’s water currently is above the Minnesota Department of Health’s recommended guidelines of PFAs, and scientists believes these compounds can cause health concerns over a long period of time.

The greatest concern is for pregnant and nursing women, and bottle-fed infants.

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