Brainerd residents should soon start to notice the faint smell of chlorine in tap water as the city continues its efforts to disinfect the city's water delivery system to remove bacteria found last week.
Once the chlorine moves through the system, water discoloration because of iron and manganese also is expected, said Tom Phelps, Brainerd Public Utilities superintendent.
Total coliform bacteria were found in the city's water pipes last week near the South Eighth Street utility project. On Tuesday, the city began pumping chlorine into the system to remove the bacteria. The chlorine will be at levels of about one gallon of the chemical for every million gallons of water.
On Thursday Phelps said the utility continued to gradually inject the chlorine into the system with the intent of getting it to reach the ends of the system.
Phelps said he hoped the chlorine would be throughout the system by Monday but the exact time couldn't be determined.
"We've got quite a bit of storage here and quite a large infrastructure so it's going to take a few days to reach the end of the system," Phelps said.
Once the chlorine is flowing throughout the entire system, crews will flush the system and begin looking for the source of the coliform bacteria, said Darwin Cole, Brainerd Public Utilities water supervisor.
"But the big thing now is to get the system with good residuals of chlorine so we can disinfect it," Cole said. "Right now it's a little bit of a waiting game."
Total coliform bacteria are generally not harmful themselves, are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other potentially harmful bacteria may be present.
If only total coliform is detected without the presence of more harmful fecal coliform or E. coli, as is the case in Brainerd, the source is most likely from contamination from the environment, introduced during construction or while repairs to plumbing or a water main were under way.
The Minnesota Department of Health considers total coliform bacteria to be a non-acute violation that doesn't pose a health risk to residents.
However, as a precaution, people with compromised immune systems - young children, the elderly or people with health issues - or people who are concerned about the water can seek other alternatives, such as bottled water or free filtered and tested water in the blue tanks at the Water Treatment Plant on East River Road near Kiwanis Park.
Brainerd Public Utilities intends periodic updates for the public on its progress in removing the total coliform bacteria.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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