(Fargo, ND) -- Troy Hall, Fargo's Water Utility Director, spoke to WDAY Radio about the facility and who they provide services to, how they prepare the water in the facility for the public, and how they greatly consider taste and odor in their cleaning operations.
There are two facilities that operate under the umbrella of Fargo's Water Treatment Plant. The first plant became operational in 1997, with the second coming online in August of 2018. These facilities combined operate for Fargo residents and extend their services to West Fargo and sections of Cass County, for a total of approximately 170,000 residents.
The two facilities use different cleaning systems to purify and treat drinking water for the city. The first uses lime-softening techniques to chemically reduce the mineral content. The second uses reverse osmosis, a treatment method that forces water through a semipermeable membrane that catches contaminants and cleans the water in the process. With their efforts combined, the two facilities have the capacity to treat approximately 45 million gallon a water per day if needed.
"Average water demand is a little over 14 million gallons of water a day, "said Hall, "Peak summer we can get a little over 30 million gallons a day, and that's for Fargo, West Fargo, and Cass together."
The department claims they are running one of the most sophisticated treatment facilities across the U.S, due to the varying needs to purify surface water depending on weather and various other conditions. This is also because of technology put into use due to NDSU based research, which is used to further disinfect the water and reduce the number of particles further.
Safety and Taste
When it comes to ensuring safe drinking water in this region, treatment plants need to overcome several challenges. Hall says multiple factors combine to address several needs to ensure consistently safe water is produced every day; including a high number of organic materials, the water itself being filled with minerals, and several quality changes depending on the season and source. These factors, combined with the only sources that are consistently reliable being the Red and Sheyenne rivers, make treatment of the water a challenge due to several fluctuations that can occur. The Water Treatment plant is looking to expand options for water for the future. A plan is in place to bring water directly from the Missouri River via pipeline to avoid severe drought conditions similar to 2021 levels. This is being done through the Red River Valley Water Supply Project, which you can learn more about by clicking here.
Returning to safety, several tests and treatments are done to ensure no foreign particles or dangerous materials are leaving the facility and entering your home. This includes using ozone, chlorine, ultraviolet light, and various other disinfecting additives and chemicals to ensure bacteria and viruses are destroyed before they can become problems for the city and its residents. Lab staff at the treatment plant gather 100+ samples every month at various points in the system outside the facility to ensure particles and disease carriers are not present, and that water clarity is consistent across the city.
"Regulators are very stringent on disinfecting the water. We don't want people getting sick, "said Hall, "Nationwide, there have been outbreaks in the past 30-years you hear about in the news. They are very very [sic] stringent on chlorine residuals, making sure everything is proper. Not just here at the water treatment plant, but to the furthest stretches out in the distribution system."
Taste and odor is one item that is not regulated by the EPA or other agencies, but one aspect the city takes pride in with their water quality. The treatment plant utilized research conducted at NDSU to improve taste and odor quality of water. That research was used to design a system for the city. That completely unique system now operates to remove errant taste and odor events. The treatment plant has not received a taste and odor event that resulted in multiple calls in over three years, which they largely attribute to the unique system.
"The NDSU study showed that ozone would break down organic (carbon-chain) compounds before forming bromate, an EPA-regulated inorganic compound, "said Hall, "For the Fargo Membrane Water Treatment Plant ozone design, we assumed - using the NDSU research data – that compounds causing Taste & Odor (T&O) issues in drinking water were part of the overall organic material in the river water."
The current system in place allows for an estimated cost avoidance of $300,000 annually due to a lack of needed maintenance and expected shutdowns compared to a different option the city was considering when looking to upgrade their taste and odor quality in 2019.
You can learn more about Fargo's Water Treatment Plant by clicking here.