The newly-founded Fort Pierre water task force convened for the first time Thursday as the city searches for answers following a Mni Wiconi core pipeline leak earlier this month.
“It went very well,” Fort Pierre Public Works Director Rick Hahn said of Thursday’s meeting. “We were kind of all on the same page about what needed to be done, everybody had the same thoughts... Pretty much full agreement on a lot of the issues.”
Hahn said installation of a new water tank is the task force’s first priority, followed by water source improvement.
“We have enough reservoir capacity for not quite a day, and one of our smaller tanks is failing, it’s getting too old,” Hahn said. “Might be difficult to repair so we’re going to try to replace that one, replace and increase at the same time with another tank as well as spread out our distribution points.”
Fire suppression is also an issue for the city, Hahn said, one that reared its head during the last water outage and could be an issue for the city going forward.
“One time during this outage, this last outage, we got low enough that we did not have adequate fire suppression,” Hahn said. “So that’s the concern, that we don’t want to be in that position with no water to fight the fire. We’re expecting another outage. We know there’s going to be another line break, just a matter of when... The next time it breaks, how long are we going to be out of water? Do we have time to fill our tanks? Can we stop using enough water? If it’s in the heat of the summer like this it gets very difficult. A lot of water’s being used, so the potential for running out is high and the fire potential is high as well in the summertime so (it) gets us very concerned every time we drop down that low.”
Hahn said the city dropped down to about 200,000 gallons during the last outage. Much lower, he said, and a boil-water order would have been put in place.
“On a regular fire, on a normal household fire, you use typically 2,000 to 5,000 gallons of water a minute going through a fire apparatus, which means that we would burn up about 160,000 to 600,000 gallons in a fire depending on the size of the fire. So if one of our major buildings went up or if it happened to be in our older part of town where our houses are relatively close together and it started jumping from house to house, we might not have enough water to put it out. So that means we either let the whole block burn or start drawing out of the river, going across to the city of Pierre.”
“We talked about the entire aspect, from storage issues to the frequent line breaks and whether it is time to look at our own water treatment system,” Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson said. “So in a broad-brush approach, we definitely have established that storage is our highest priority right now and we have talked with (South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources) about that. One of the things we will do immediately is to ask the engineering company that did our water study to update it.”
Hanson said the city will be looking for funding from South Dakota Rural Water and the DANR for the updated city water study, which was done in 2019.