Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning Wastewater Treatment Facility is in need of repairs after opening its doors over 20 years ago. The Henning City Council received a water treatment repair plan during its meeting last week.

By Chad Koenen


Twenty years after the Henning Wastewater Treatment Facility opened its doors, the facility is nearing the end of its useful life. 

During its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, the Henning City Council heard from Bob Schliemann of Apex Engineering about a preliminary engineering report concerning the water treatment facility. The current wastewater facility was constructed in 2002 and provides water for both the City of Henning and the City of Ottertail. Schliemann said the useful life of similar facilities is 20 years, at which time the components in the facility will begin to show their age and will need to be replaced and repaired. 

“There are a lot of components that have reached, or are near the end, of their useful life,” said Schliemann.

The facility has a capacity of 600 gallons of water per minute, which Schliemann said was adequate for the future of both Henning and Ottertail as the community’s populations are expected to grow over the next 20 years. The cost to rehabilitate the facility to serve another 20 years is estimated to be $3.3 million.

While the city’s water quality was determined to be good, Schliemann said there are elevated levels of iron, manganese and hardness. Without treatment the water will have an undesirable odor and taste, as well as could stain clothing, plumbing fixtures and more. 

Even though the wastewater treatment facility is beginning to show its age and has reached the end of its useful life, Henning Utility Supervisor Ted Strand said the facility continues to operate and treat the water. While some of the equipment may not be working as effectively as it did when the facility opened 20 years ago, the water is safe to drink and should be in the future as well. 

“The drinkability of the water is still there. It’s not that your health or welfare is in harm. It’s the aesthetics of the water. You  are going to start seeing that red water. People are going to start noticing that,” said Strand. “I am not predicting anything where public health is in jeopardy with this. I want to make that perfectly clear.”

Nonetheless, Schliemann said the wastewater treatment facility report did find several major deficiencies at the facility that will need to be addressed in the near future, which includes the filtering bays that removes things like iron in the water. 

“I think there is some urgency based on what we have found,” said Schliemann of rehabilitating the facility. 

For example, the filter is not removing iron and manganese as intended and is resulting in the overloading of the softeners. 

The chemical rooms do not meet current code as the chlorine, fluoride and potassium permanganate systems should be in separate rooms. Currently all of the chemicals are being stored in one room. 

Another major deficiency is that the electrical/controls are located in the lower level of the facility.

As the city and Apex Engineering look to the future, Schliemann said the plan is to develop a wastewater facility to last 20 years. 

Among the proposed improvements will be raw water well improvements, rehab filters, rehab ION exchange softening system, rehab the high service pumps, improve chemical feed systems, architectural building improvements like recruiting the walls and replacing the roof the building, installing new HVAC system and dehumidifiers, improve electrical/control systems and adding a pressure sustaining value on the transmission line to Ottertail. 

The estimated cost to rehabilitate and make the necessary repairs at the wastewater plant is estimated to be just over $3.3 million. Should the city construct a new wastewater treatment facility the cost would be just under $9 million for a new filtration and softening plant, or $7.5 million for a plant that does not soften the water. 

Due to the cost and overall condition of the plant, the recommendation from Schliemann and Apex Engineering was to rehabilitate the wastewater treatment plant. The hope is funding options like grants and low interest loans could be available to help offset a portion of the overall cost. 

If the city were to move forward with the project, construction could begin as soon as December 2023 and the substantial completion date would be April 2025. The timeline revolves around how quickly the city makes a decision on the project, as well as the availability of products and materials.

Strand said the city will continue to operate a wastewater treatment plant during the construction process and will bring in a temporary plant if needed to treat the water. 

The city council moved forward with the planning process of refurbishing the wastewater treatment plant and will seek funding opportunities to cut down on the overall cost of the project. 

Schliemann also updated the council on several other projects like the upcoming Inman St. utility, street and main wastewater lift station improvement project and the Highway 108 street and utility project.