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Small amount of floor sealer finds way into Brainerd’s water supply

A funny smell noticed in city water by some Brainerd residents has been traced to low levels of floor sealer that somehow made their way into the city’s water supply. 

The amount of sealer has been determined to be minute by the Minnesota Department of Public Health, Todd Wicklund, Brainerd Public Utilities finance director, said Wednesday.

The state department told him the city’s water is safe to drink. 

Wicklund said the smell was noticed by residents and utilities employees on Friday. The utility didn’t know what was causing it because the city tests water for bacteria, such as total coliform bacteria found in the system in 2009, and not for chemicals. The state was called to test the water and took several samples last weekend.

The test results showed the sealer chemical was present in the water supply at a ratio of parts per billion — compared to parts per million of fluoride — and the water sampled was found by the state to be within the confines of the Safe Water Drinking Act, Wicklund said. 

The city has opened hydrants to flush the system and the state will continue to monitor the water, Wicklund said. He said the state has not ordered changes in the way the city delivers water. 

Wicklund said Brainerd Public Utilities officials didn’t inform people of the problem because the amount of chemical was within state guidelines and it was determined there was no health risk.

“We’re not trying to cover it up, we’re trying to figure out what happened and to what extent,” Wicklund said. 

“We take water treatment very seriously and we’re following protocol.”

Public Utilities Commission members Don Sievek and Don Samuelson said they didn’t know of the issue. Commission members Mark O’Day, Bill Wroolie and Don Stang couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

How the sealant ended up in the water supply is still being investigated but Wicklund said it is believed it got into the system during recent maintenance of Brainerd’s water treatment plant. The plant was off-line at the time, he added. 

In a news release, Brainerd Public Utilities officials thanked the several residents for bringing the issue to their attention and noted unfluoridated water is available 24 hours day at the Central Station, located at the south end of Kiwanis Park.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.