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Worthington Public Utilities to test alternative treatment for drinking water

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington Public Utilities has entered into a pilot study to test the effectiveness of biological water filtration, a departure from its current method of chemical treatment.

WORTHINGTON - Worthington Public Utilities has entered into a pilot study to test the effectiveness of biological water filtration, a departure from its current method of chemical treatment.

WPU currently uses chlorine and potassium permanganate to remove ammonia and other contaminants from drinking water. With biological water filtration, no chemicals are needed, just WPU’s existing sand filters and a buildup of natural “good bacteria,” which breaks down ammonia.

The Water & Light Commission on Monday approved a $14,000 contract with WSB & Associates to conduct the pilot study. The firm will set their equipment up at the water treatment plant for eight to 16 weeks.

Eric Roos, WPU water superintendent, said the new process could save a lot of money, as WPU spent an estimated $71,000 on chlorine and potassium permanganate last year. He added most people prefer the taste of water with less chemical manipulation.

“It’s kind of exciting, really,” Roos said. “I hope it works out the way they say it will.”

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The state of Minnesota requires a pilot study before implementing biological filtration. Switching over could involve the purchase of new filters, or it might just require WPU to stop including chemicals in its process so that natural bacteria can grow and do its job, said Scott Hain, WPU general manager.

“Long term, it makes all the sense in the world to spend the $14,000 and see what it takes to make this work,” Hain said.

Water from the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System pipeline, which arrives to Worthington in November, will not require filtration. The new source of water will allow WPU to take some of its filters out of service and change them over to biological filtration, if need be.

The commission also approved a $32,078 contract with Sioux Falls engineering firm Banner Associates to design a new water line along Plotts Avenue between 290th Street and 300th Street.

The current transmission line that brings drinking water from the Lake Bella wellfield to Worthington runs over a bridge, which Nobles County intends to replace next year.

Banner expects the project could be started by September and be done by Nov. 16, 2018 if everything goes as planned.

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