City water meets state standards

By: 
Jamie Hult, Staff writer
Softer water possible, but comes at a cost

More than 600 water systems in South Dakota are monitored and tested each year by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources. Of that number, less than 40 water systems have met the state and federal standards since the program started 18 years ago, and Brandon’s is one of them.
In the 2018 Drinking Water Report released last month, the DENR bestowed Brandon with the Secretary’s Award for Drinking Water Excellence for the 18th consecutive year.
The annual report shows the highest levels of primary contaminants detected in the city’s water, along with a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for each. Primary contaminants are substances which pose a health risk.
Brandon’s water radium level was 2 pCi/L, 3pCi/L shy of the maximum 5 pCi/L. 
Alpha emitters – combined radium – was detected at 10 pCi/L, compared to the MCL of 15 pCi/L.
“The 2018 drinking water report presented us with outstanding news, as all of our tests showed contaminant levels below that of which is allowed,” said Mayor Paul Lundberg. 
Levels of other primary contaminants, such as copper, lead, nitrate, fluoride and total trihalomethanes, were all well below the MCLs.
 
Water quality
The radium level in Brandon’s drinking water, which has been of public concern over the past year and a half, are identical to the numbers in the 2017 drinking water report.
In time, those levels could be even lower. Construction is going on now at the city’s water treatment plant to install an IMAR filtration system that will, hopefully, lower contaminant levels.   
“I think it’s great news for our community,” said Brandon city alderwoman Dana Clark. “We’re anticipating an even higher level of filtration to come. It will be exciting to see those new post-filter replacement results as well.”
Rollie Hoeke is public works superintendent for the city of Brandon.  
The IMAR-filtered water will likely be lower in iron, Hoeke said, and could be lower in radium and manganese, too. 
Last year, Pierre’s water treatment facility was shut down when the manganese level skyrocketed. Residents were directed to drink bottled water. 
DENR requires South Dakota water systems to report radium levels once every six years. Brandon conducts yearly radium tests, “being as everyone’s been in an uproar,” Hoeke said. 
The “uproar” to which Hoeke refers began in 2017 and led to the city of Brandon taking a harder look at pursuing a contract with Minnehaha Community Water Corp. for backup water supply. Radium tests were not conducted on MCWC’s water last year or included in its 2018 drinking water report. 
 
Water hardness
One difference between MCWC’s water and Brandon’s is the level of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). MCWC’s was significantly lower. 
TDS is a secondary contaminant that isn’t enforced by the DENR. TDS can lead to water hardness, which has cosmetic and aesthetic issues but isn’t a health hazard.
“Even if it has TDS in it, it’s still safe to drink,” Hoeke said. “If it’s unsafe to drink, we wouldn’t be producing it.” 
MCWC’s water is softened at its treatment plants, and Brandon’s isn’t. TDS levels can’t be lowered without more tweaks at the water treatment plant – tweaks that would take time – and money, Hoeke said. 
Brandon averages 600,000 to 700,000 gallons of water per day in the winter, and close to 2 million gallons per day in the summer. 
Not only is water softening at the treatment plant level expensive, Hoeke said, but the softened water can’t be diverted from water that goes on lawns from water used for showering, cooking and cleaning. 
“People want softer water, but they complain about the rates now,” he said. “Is it really worth softening it to everybody? That’s going to be up to the public. That’s what everybody’s going to have to decide.”
The city of Brandon recently approved development and construction of two more wells – 8 and 9 – and a pair of water towers, on which bids will be sought this fall. 
Data from Brandon’s drinking water report is based on samples from the city’s two permanent wells, 1 and 6. 
“We are all pleased with the results, but never satisfied. We will continue to strive to provide the best possible drinking water within the city of Brandon,” Lundberg said.

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