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Top 10: City chlorinated water system after E. coli contamination

The Rivertown Days Tennis Tournament, which along with Rivertown Days is celebrating 40 years this year, is held at the high school courts by the water tower and the courts at Roadside Park. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.

 

The results of a feasibility study looking at options for disinfecting the city's water system are on the horizon according to Public Works Director Nick Egger.

"There will be discussion amongst staff and we will take time for them to digest the results before we make them public," Egger said.

With the transition to a new mayor on Jan. 7 and the resignation of City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee, the process of taking action may be prolonged, Egger said. Egger hopes to bring a summary of the results before City Council and hold a Q&A in the latter part of January.

The city started working with Stantec to do a feasibility study of the city's water system in November. The city has worked with Stantec as a water consultant in the past.

"We felt they were best suited to help us with this issue because they are familiar with our operations and our system here," Egger said.

The purpose of the study is to look into all options for disinfecting the water system, and figuring out what works best for the city.

The city started chlorinating the entire water system in early October after an E. coli contamination was found in a part of the city's water system in late September which caused a boil water advisory.

Low-level chlorination of the system started after being recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The investigative report done by the Minnesota Department of Health advised long-term disinfection, stating that a community the size of Hastings is more vulnerable to contaminants like E. coli. The report also stated that MDH would not be able to pinpoint one specific cause of the incident, suggesting a few suspected causes.

The flushing out of irrigation systems, the switching of water direction in delivery pipes, or a turnover of water in the storage tanks were all cited as possible reasons for the contamination.

Karla Peterson with MDH discussed the issue at a City Council meeting after the incident took place, stating that in many situations like this, it is hard to pinpoint one singular cause of the contamination.

All three of these events can cause natural biofilms in the water to be loosened and can lead to a positive E. coli test, Peterson said at the meeting.

However; in chlorinating the system, the city has received questions and complaints regarding the taste and smell of the water.

Both Egger and Peterson said in a presentation to City Council, that the smells and tastes from the chlorine will reduce over time as the system gets used to the chlorine.

"There is a reaction that takes place between the pipes, the chlorine and the biofilms that can build up in there. That produces some of those effects," Egger said. "This is something that we think could last a while. We don't know exactly how long that would take to break everything down that's in the pipes."

Until the taste and smell of the water settles, or a new solution is found, the City of Hastings posted a few tips and tricks for drinking water, as well as other helpful facts, on their website, hastingsmn.gov.

To help with drinking water, the city suggests the following:

• Fill a pitcher with water and set in the refrigerator for a few hours before using. This allows the chlorine in the water to evaporate.

• Using a faucet filter or filter pitcher.

• Using a granulated activated carbon filter. They can be installed on your tap or as a whole-house filter.