Leaking water tanks will eventually need repair

Hunter Herbaugh
Sunday, February 28, 2021
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Water can be seen spraying from one of the two water tanks serving the Forest Park neighborhood. The water leaks drew attention because of the ice formations that developed during the cold spell that hit the area in recent weeks. Submitted photo

County residents raised eyebrows recently when a social media post drew attention to an issue with Forest Park’s water supply. Specifically that the tanks that contain the area’s reserve of treated water are leaking.

There are two tanks that hold water for the Forest Park neighborhood, providing household water to roughly 330 homes. The newer of the two is a welded model that can hold about 100,000 gallons of water with the other being an older, bolted together design that can hold about 75,000 gallons.

According to West Glendive Public Works Field Managing Operator Jim Petty, both tanks are leaking around their access hatches and the bolted one has some leakage on one of its seams. He noted that estimating how much water is being leaked is difficult to gauge as it depends on how full the tanks are but said that while near full, they could leak roughly 10 gallons per minute.

The tanks receive water directly from a well system that both replenishes and treats it. The water is provided to households and fire hydrants in Forest Park while an irrigation system provides water for outdoor uses, such as sprinklers.

Both tanks are inspected every two years, according to county commissioner Dennis Zander, and Petty said he checks on them every day.

When asked about the issue, Zander said the commissioners are aware of concerns but funding constraints and an effort to address the county’s sewer district fees have them hoping the problem stays manageable for the time being.

“We knew there was an issue there, but it costs money. We’re trying to save money up and with the residents having to deal with the increase in the sewer costs, we’ve been trying to limp it along but obviously something will need to be done,” he said.

Zander added that Great West Engineering is currently looking into the prospects of repairing versus replacing the tanks, with the cost of new tanks estimated to be between $4 to $5 per gallon plus various other factors, such as whatever the cost of piping would be.

Petty explained that both tanks were repaired approximately two years ago, but these current leaks are in new locations and have been around for roughly a year. He said right now, the leaking isn’t causing too much of a problem. No disruptions in water service have been reported and the only difference he’s noted is that the wells are having to work just a little bit harder. He foresees that the problem will remain manageable as long as the tanks don’t come under too much stress, which really only happens when they are full.

If the tanks do come under enough pressure to blow the hatches, Petty explained that the water would then be provided directly from the well system and it would likely take a couple of days to return the tanks to a functioning state.

“If worse came to worse and (the hatch) did blow off, a guy could use the wells, on and off, on and off, it’d be a bit harder on the wells, but they’d still have water,” he said.

Petty added that the recent cold may have benefitted the issue as the leaking water freezing helped temporarily seal the tanks. Of course, as the temperatures warmed, the leaking resumed.

The next meeting of the Dawson County Commission is Tuesday, March 2 at 10 a.m.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.