MPCA presents city with options on well contamination

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/15/98.

The Paynesville City Council was given three options/solutions by Jim McArthur, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, on what they could do to solve the cityís water contamination problem at their Wednesday night council meeting.

All three options would cost the city one-half million dollars or more, McArthur said.

The benzene contamination was first detected in ground water samples in 1985. It wasnít until the fall of 1997 that tests showed increasing levels of concentration of benzene in city wells three (by city garage) and four (behind city hall).

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been working with the city to find the source of the contamination and possible solutions since November 1997. About 20 soil probes, three soil borings were taken, and four monitoring wells were installed near the contam-inated wells.

Once the source was found, (the former Midtown Service Station at the corner of Lake Street and Mill Street) the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency installed an interceptor well near Caseyís to try to prevent further contamination of wells three and four. In early December, an extraction well was installed at the source of contamination, the former Midtown Station.

McArthur informed the council that it doesnít look like wells three and four will be usable for long-term use. Contamination levels have fluctuated over the past year. Well four had dropped to four parts per billion but lately has shown signs of increased levels of benzene. Well three showed borderline levels of contamination. Well three is presently pumping 100 gallons per minute and the water is being blended with water from wells five and six which are located south of Highway 23 near the Paynesville Greenhouse.

Well four is being pumped into the sanitary sewer system and isnít being used for drinking water at this time.

McArthur presented the following options to the city council:

1) Continue to use the present wells but treat the water from well three with a striping tower (an aeration system) to help remove the contamination. Cost: about one-half million dollars.

2) Dig two new wells south of wells five and six. Cost: about one-half million dollars.

3) Dig two new wells and construct a new water treatment plant on the west end of Paynesville on the present airport site. Cost: about one and one-half million dollars.

McArthur said by going west of town, the chances of the water being contaminated by the same plume would be eliminated. ďThere is an active water supply at the airport site which flows west to east,Ē he stressed.

ďNew wells south of wells five and six have the potential of being contaminated because of their location to the plume,Ē McArthur added.

Thus far the state has funded all the investigation that has taken place within the past year. ďWe are happy to provide assistance, but the city needs to take over and make some decisions,Ē McArthur said.

ďThere are several fund sources available to help the city cover the cost of new wells, but the state will only help with the lowest cost acceptable option. If the city goes for a more expensive option, they will need to fund the cost difference,Ē McArthur told the council.

Ron Mergen, public works director, said the public works committee would like to do more exploratory borings along Highway 55 and the Chladek Addition.

ďAll options need to be explored and then weíll come back with a more defined scope of action,Ē Mergen said.

Council Member Dennis Zimmerman stressed the tests need to be complete because we donít want to put a large investment into something that would turn into another contaminated well.

ďWith the geology around here it would be hard to predict what will happen,Ē McArthur said.

In other council action:
ēThe council approved purchasing 10 wind-powered processors/mixers for the sewer treatment ponds to help with odor control. The cost of the mixers is about $171,245.

ēThe police department seized a 1986 Ford Bronco II. The vehicle has a $1,111 lien against it. The council approved paying off the lien with Community First National Bank and declaring the vehicle surplus property. The city administrator will advertise the Bronco for sale.

ēThe council approved the requests for annual contributions for Paynesville Township and Paynesville-New London Hockey Association to help with the operation of the ice arena. The donations total $13,500.

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