City plans to flush out a solution to water quality problem

Minot’s pubic works department has a game plan for clearing up the discolored water plaguing some residents of the valley, assistant director Jason Sorenson told the Minot City Council’s Public Works and Safety Committee Wednesday.

The big question is, “Will the plan work?”

Sorenson said it is a start.

“We need to get our hands around it before we can devise a solution for it. A flushing program will help us get our hands around it,” he said.

The department plans to isolate an area two blocks wide by 10 to 12 blocks long in northwest Minot, south of Oak Park, in which it will come on strong with a pipeline flushing program, introduce fresh water and do steadfast monitoring.

The city was aware of water discoloration and smell affecting homes in that neighborhood and has been flushing previously. The city is stepping up its efforts after a private homeowner made a positive coliform test on her water public. The city’s follow-up testing showed no contamination, but the incident also heightened awareness of other water quality concerns that the city wants to address.

Sorenson said often there are communication gaps that occur when a complaint is received and flushing is done. If the city doesn’t get immediate feedback, the assumption is that the flushing worked. The city would flush the lines after getting complaints and has been flushing frequently in the affected area in northwest Minot, yet problems persist.

Sorenson said the Souris Court area has a similar water quality issue. The department once flushed the line for 19 hours, only to have the water stay clear for only 11 hours.

“We have some more things that we want to try. We are taking all these complaints seriously,” Sorenson said.

He explained that the discoloration is from rust from water mains that are 50 to 80 years old. Heavy water flow through the pipes keeps water clear of rust, but during and after the flood, no one was living in the valley and water stagnated.

Asked by the committee about the potential for using a chemical to recoat the mains and keep rust out of the water, Sorenson said there is no known way to do that. In the late 1990s, the city experienced a problem with lead from service lines leaching into the water and experimented with products to coat the lines. The lead issue resolved, but Sorenson said it is unknown whether a certain product worked or if time took care of it.