Fort Dodge to tackle hard water woes

State mandate spurring move that will affect every water softener in community

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea Reverse osmosis equipment designed to reduce the hardness of the water in Fort Dodge will be added to the John W. Pray Water Facility shown here. Complying with new regulations on how much chloride can be in wastewater discharged into the Des Moines River is the ultimate goal of the project.

An estimated $15.5 million project to reduce the hardness of the water coming out of every faucet in Fort Dodge is being planned to meet a new state regulation.

Paying for the work will cost residents an additional $7 a month on their water bills, but they could save almost as much in reduced costs for salt in their water softeners, according to information presented to the City Council Monday.

New restrictions on chlorides in water discharged from the wastewater treatment plant are forcing the city to undertake the hardness reduction project, but the effort will improve the overall quality of the drinking water, according to City Engineer Tony Trotter.

”What this does is give us improved drinking water to the community as a whole,” he said.

The proposal presented to the council Monday calls for adding reverse osmosis equipment to the John W. Pray Water Facility on Phinney Park Drive to reduce the hardness of the water. The proposal’s timeline calls for seeking bids next year and completing the work by the end of 2019.

The project would reduce the hardness of the water, but would not be true water softening.

The hardness of water is measured in terms of grains, with zero grains being soft water.

Fort Dodge water currently measures in at 26 grains of hardness, according to Michael Washburn, an engineer with McClure Engineering Co. who is working on the project for the city. He said Monday that the project would reduce the water to seven grains of hardness.

Steve Pederson, the president of Blue Ribbon Pelham Waters in Fort Dodge, said every water softener in the community will have to be adjusted after the reverse osmosis equipment is in use.

”It’s going to take cooperation and collaboration between industry, the city and the public to make it work well,” he said during Monday’s council meeting.

A mandate from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is forcing the city to reduce the hardness of the water.

That mandate puts a new limit on how much chloride can be in the water discharged from the wastewater treatment plant into the Des Moines River.

”We quickly realized there was a significant amount of time we could not meet that,” Trotter said.

Washburn said there is no cost-effective way to reduce chlorides in the wastewater, so the chlorides have to be reduced at the source.

In Fort Dodge, that source is the hundreds of water softeners now in use. Trotter said 70 percent of the chlorides come from water softeners.

By reducing the hardness of the water before it leaves the John W. Pray Water Facility, engineers hope to reduce the workload of those softeners and thus curtail the amount of chlorides going to the wastewater treatment plant.

In addition to chlorides, the reverse osmosis equipment will remove radium, sulfate, ammonia and organic carbons.

In conjunction with the water hardness reduction project, engineers propose to close an 86-year-old well and drill a new one at a cost of about $3 million.

The city now has eight wells.

The $7 a month rate increase to pay for the project will be implemented in two stages. A $3.50 per month increase will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Another $3.50 per month increase will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.


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