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Baxter staffers caution that water treatment problems are no easy fix

The city of Baxter is collaborating with its partners and contractors to find a solution for filtration pump failures in its water treatment facility, City Administrator Brad Chapulis said, but the solution will likely take months of hard work before it comes to fruition.

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Baxter is taking the first in a list of steps to overhaul the city’s water treatment facilities and ensure they’re viable for the long-term. Photo illustration by Metro Newspaper Service
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If there’s one thing that can be said about the ongoing Baxter water treatment saga, it’s this: It isn’t over and it’ll likely challenge city staffers and contractors for the foreseeable future.

Currently, the city of Baxter has activated its water interconnect building and is purchasing water from Brainerd Public Utilities to offset filtration failures in its water treatment plant. There, one of its four filtration pumps systems experienced catastrophic failure in February and the remaining three are up to be upgraded in order to ensure the system can accommodate Baxter’s problematic watershed, especially during the summer months when usage is at its peak.

The Baxter City Council approved March 2 a $51,400 allocation to upgrade the interconnect building to handle the BPU influx. This expenditure could be covered by an insurance policy. Staffers noted Baxter may need to replace the problematic second cap, as well as its three counterparts, for a full overhaul of all four filtration pump systems including caps, troughs and auxiliary parts.

RELATED: Baxter Water Treatment Plant faces problem with ‘no scientific reason’
In the meantime, the water treatment plant has been shut down, which has forced the city to look to alternative means to filter and purify its water. The Baxter watershed is susceptible to high concentrations of arsenic, ammonia and especially iron. It’s also been noted these high concentrations in the watershed require more filtration cycles, which can place more stress on a water treatment system that isn’t large enough or equipped to handle such volumes.

During a virtual interview Monday, March 8, Baxter City Administrator Brad Chapulis and Public Works Director Trevor Walter said this is only the first in a list of steps the city will have to take to overhaul the city’s water treatment facilities and ensure they’re viable for the long-term. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what is causing these failures, he noted, and how the city will ultimately address its water treatment needs.

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RELATED: Baxter City Council approves filter overhaul after water treatment failures
“We are currently working with the insurance company in investigating the failure in the second filter. Our hope and goal is to get something to the council in the near future with recommended repairs and timelines for the plant, but right now we are still working with the insurance company and other parties to try and iron out some details,” Chapulis said. “That is a part of the solution, but there's still pieces of the puzzle that we're still working on that will ultimately lead to how much and what type of repairs need to be done at the water treatment plant to be back at 100% operation.”

Walter cautioned that final price tags are still pending, but the costs would likely be expensive for such a specialized and complex system.

“We don't have all the estimates put together, but the repairs to the water plant are many, many times that (original $51,000), depending on what we all have to do all four filters,” Walter said. “It could be very, very expensive.”

In short, Baxter residents should expect new developments and more pieces of the proverbial puzzle in the coming months before it's all said and done.

“This is just the first step and there are steps later on,” Chapulis said. “This is a real time problem, working on real time solutions, and there's going to be checkpoints along the way.”

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at gabe.lagarde@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch .

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Water treatment and a failing filter cap have been the subject of recent Baxter City Council discussions. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

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Water treatment and a failing filter cap have been the subject of recent Baxter City Council discussions. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

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