St. Paul Rodeo Association offers the city of St. Paul $1,500 for water quality test

ST. PAUL — With the rodeo more than two months passed, the St. Paul City Council and the rodeo association have returned to negotiations over the city potentially co-opting the rodeo well for municipal drinking water.

While working out an agreement with the association to study the well, Mayor Kim Wallis explained that the city is working to get its dormant water filtration system in working order in case the city must continue using its two productive wells, one which of is well beyond its recommended service life.

"So we're kind of going with concurrent paths here," Wallis said. "One, we're going to bring the filtration system back online; the other one of course is proceeding toward working out some kind of arrangement with the rodeo (association) to get the feasibility study done."

While that feasibility study would require a battery of tests, the rodeo association has offered to cover up to $1,500 of the initial test to see if the rodeo's well water is potable, which Wallis said would cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

"The St. Paul Rodeo Board offered $1,500 to assist in paying for the initial testing as a good faith gesture to demonstrate our willingness to work with the city on this issue," Cindy Schonholtz, rodeo general manager, said in an email. "That is where we are currently and waiting for a revised agreement from the city."

Schonholtz made the offer at the council's Aug. 23 meeting after the association returned its revisions to the agreement that would allow the city to perform that initial water quality test, which was put on hold in late spring as preparations for the rodeo ramped up.

The association drilled its well about two years ago to serve various rodeo needs, and soon thereafter floated the idea of offering the well for municipal water use. At the time the city was experiencing longstanding problems with its municipal wells and the city was preparing to drill its own new municipal well.

The rodeo's offer was set aside when tests showed arsenic levels were barely within the acceptable limit for drinking water, then officials had a change of heart when an estimated $55,000 test well yielded little more than a silty aquifer that would provide less than half what the city needed.

The water quality test would help the city determine if the rodeo well is a viable option before looking to find another potential spot to drill a city well, Wallis said.

While it could be six months or more to bring the rodeo well online under ideal circumstances, with a number of tests and inspections by various regulatory bodies, Wallis noted that the negotiations with the rodeo are going well.

"The city and the rodeo are working very well together. We're working hard on this and the cooperation, I think on both sides, has been really good," he said.

He added that the issue of whether the city would buy or lease the well would be determined down the road.

In the meantime, the city has directed its public works staff to find engineering documents and work with council public works liaison Mike Dolan to figure out how to bring the filtration system back into operation.

That system has been offline for about three years after filters for the system were mixed up and potentially made it useless to operate, though Wallis noted that the city has still been meeting all water quality standards without it.

He said the system could be used to filter water regardless of whether the city adopts the rodeo well.

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