Olsson Associates

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Study on discolored water in Nebraska town reveals bigger issue

Friday, November 14, 2014

Linda Van Hoosen, Communications

Yellow, light brown, pink, and even rusty. These are colors you wouldn’t want to use when describing your drinking water. Residents in Minden, Nebraska, have been dealing with the problem for many years. The water stains clothes, sinks, and toilets, and a water filter is only a temporary fix. The Minden City Council hired Olsson Associates earlier this year to study Minden’s water woes and come up with a solution. During the process, a larger concern was discovered.

“The driving factor of the study was the discoloration, but that ended up being only a part of the need for the study. A big part was the deficiency in fire protection within the distribution system,” said Joe Baxter, an Olsson technical leader.

Joe said that approximately 30 percent (44,000 feet) of the town’s water distribution system still has 4-inch mains, which don’t provide enough water volume for fighting fires. He said they can fight fires, but not with the fire-flow volume that the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) recommends for residential or commercial areas. The fire-flow protection levels are evaluated every five years by ISO. 

The multi-phase study began in February with the intention to resolve the water discoloration issue. The problem is caused by a high concentration of iron and manganese, which are prevalent in the Minden area and the Platte River valley. Although iron and manganese are aesthetically unappealing, they are not a health issue.

Olsson conducted three public meetings to talk with residents about their water issues. Joe presented the recommendations to residents at the third meeting in September. The plan calls for a three-phase project that would cost about $3 million for each phase. It would replace portions of the distribution system and make improvements to Minden’s wells, water storage, and water treatment plant.

“The first two phases address the fire protection deficiencies and needed improvements to the wells, water storage, and water treatment plant,” Joe said. “It won’t take care of all of the discoloration issues, but it will help with a large portion of the issues. There’s a tremendous amount of iron and manganese buildup in the older mains.

“Phase three includes recommendations that are needed as the town grows and the system needs to expand,” Joe said.

Residents passed a local sales tax increase on November 4 to help pay for the improvements. Construction is anticipated to begin early fall of 2015.

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