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East Grand Forks to install exhaust system for interconnect lift station

East Grand Forks will be installing an exhaust system for its wastewater interconnect lift station, something that will help clear the air for workers exposed to a potentially harmful gas.

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East Grand Forks City Hall. Herald Stock Photo.

East Grand Forks will be installing an exhaust system for its wastewater interconnect lift station, something that will help clear the air for workers exposed to a potentially harmful gas.

Jason Stordahl, East Grand Forks public works director, said the interconnect lift station has been battling a buildup of hydrogen sulfide gas, which is produced through the breakdown of organic matter and human waste.

"There's always probably going to be some (hydrogen sulfide) in the wastewater system," he said. "But it's not harmful, like anything else, until it's a high concentration."

The exhaust system will help vent the gas farther up into the air, where it will dissipate and should not be hazardous to people.

The interconnect lift station, which sends sewage from East Grand Forks to Grand Forks for treatment, became operational last November.

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The nearly $44,000 project was approved by the city council on Sept. 18, East Grand Forks City Administrator David Murphy said. Stordahl said parts have been ordered and the system will likely be installed in the next few months.

The gas typically gives off the smell of rotten eggs, Stordahl said. High concentrates can cause the deterioration of concrete and health issues for workers, he said. It can also damage electronics within the interconnect lift station.

Although most people can smell very low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, it is dangerous to assume odor provides adequate warning, Stordahl said. When hydrogen sulfide levels are too high a person's sense of smell is basically deadened, he said.

Stordahl said shortly after the pumps began to run they noticed an odor and gas meters were registering "pretty high levels" of hydrogen sulfide.

He said the city began to consider what the best way was to fix the problem and decided that an exhaust system was the best way to go.

Wastewater staff carry gas meters with them, and if an alarm goes off they know to stay away from certain areas.

The city has been venting the interconnect the best it can for now, such as leaving doors in the area open, Stordahl said. The exhaust system will help push out the hydrogen sulfide so it does not get to high levels.

Stordahl said they suspect the levels of hydrogen sulfide may have been higher because the water gets shipped through a 50-year-old force main that is 2 miles long. There would be a buildup of material in the force main, with no way to clean the pipe.

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Stordahl said there's "no reason for anybody to be alarmed" and added that hydrogen sulfide would be found near most lift stations that have any kind of venting.

"The air coming out of the lift stations it won't be harmful to human health when it's discharged," he said, adding that it also isn't harmful to the public now.

Related Topics: EAST GRAND FORKS
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