Radium treatment keeps clean water flowing
Fond du Lac faced a relatively common, but troublesome, issue when radium was found in the city water supply.
The city’s solution was anything but common, however.
Radium is a radioactive element that can cause health problems, and the city was under state orders to immediately deal with it. To treat the problem, the city distinguished itself as the first community in the state to use a radium selective media treatment process to treat groundwater.
The city chose RSM technology because it doesn’t involve adding chemicals to the water supply, and it wastes less water than other radium-treatment options. Because it had never been used in Wisconsin, however, the technology required a full vetting to land the necessary agency approvals.
The project team was under a tight schedule, said Steve Kluesner of Strand Associates Inc., Madison, the project’s architect and engineer, because by the time the method was selected, the city was already under an order from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to put temporary measures in place.
An interim compliance strategy was developed with lower radium producing wells until the new water treatment facilities were complete.
Because of the schedule, design work had to start while the city was still deciding between two RSM vendors, further complicating the process, Kluesner said.
“We had to begin our facility design even before we knew which vendor it would be,” he said. “We had to design it so either (technology) could fit in the footprint and connect with the piping.”
Once a vendor was selected, the team developed a construction strategy that let crews build with the well still in operation, which let the city keep supplying its customers with water.
“The biggest challenge was to … allow piping connections to be made, facilities to be built and sequencing out all of that work so they are still in the business of supplying water to their customers,” Kluesner said.
The process went so well, he said, that Strand condensed what typically would have taken four years into two years of work. The project also came in about 7 percent below budget.
With its successful completion, the project set the stage for other communities to use RSM technology to deal with water treatment issues, Kluesner said.