$40M Project Seeks to Improve Minn. Water Quality

Updated: 07/11/2013 7:44 AM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

It's a $40 million, five-year project aimed at improving water quality for 500,000 Minnesotans.
The Fridley Filtration Plant provides all of the drinking water for Minneapolis, Golden Valley, New Hope, Crystal, Columbia Heights, Hilltop, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, as well as some of the drinking water in Bloomington and Edina.
If you live in one of those cities, two out of every three cups of water you fill up from the tap comes from the Mississippi River and is cleaned by that plant. The massive renovation project is to make sure that water stays clean, clear, and odor-free.
"Kind of like your carbon filter at your tap, only it's huge compared to the one at your house," said Bernie Bullert, the director of the Water Treatment and Distribution Services Division for the City of Minneapolis Public Works Department.
The Fridley Filtration Plant is kind of like a giant Brita -- that purifies 50 million gallons of river water every day, and needs a new filter.
The plant still has its original piping, made in 1924. Cranks, bolts, valves -- many of them will soon be a century old. Bullert said it's time this over-the-hill plant got an overhaul.
"This improvement is the filter media itself and the piping related to the filters," Bullert said.
The filters lie just underneath 20 pools of water inside the plant, and ensure what you drink is free of slime and scum. They were last replaced in the 1970's.
"We use river water, and it always produces safe water. But occasionally, we get some algae taste out of the river," Bullert said.
That can happen in the spring and fall. But Bullert said the new filters will solve that problem. 
All that piping will also be put out to pasture.
Bullert calls the $40 million bill a bargain.
"It's worth renovating rather than rebuilding," Bullert said.
A Minneapolis city council committee just gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to start soliciting bids for the work. Less than $3 million has already been appropriated for the project. The rest will be funded through bonds over the next few years.
It's expected to take about five years for the renovations to be completed.