Whitefish hires firm for water system expansion

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The City of Whitefish draws its water from Haskill Basin and Whitefish Lake before treating it at the water treatment plant north of town. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

The City of Whitefish has hired the engineering firm of Morrison-Maierle to design a project set to expand its water source and treatment capacity.

City Council last week voted to select the firm from the two that submitted proposals to the city for the project. The other firm was Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services.

The estimated cost for the group of projects necessary to increase the source and treatment capacity is $10 to $12 million. It is expected that engineering fees will be about 10 percent of that cost, but the specific contract costs are still to be negotiated.

Public Works Director Craig Workman and a selection committee recommended Morrison-Maierle, with an office Kalipsell, be hired for the job.

“We were extremely impressed with the research they completed to get themselves up to speed on the project, and in particular, the background and skill set of the lead designer,” Workman said.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality this spring informed the city that it would prohibit any water extension or connection due to concerns that the city is approaching its threshold for water storage and water source capacity based upon DEQ standards.

The city has been working on a request to DEQ for a deviation that would essentially note that the city wants to continue hooking up new users, and is putting together a plan to increase its capacity.

“While staff is actively working hard on getting DEQ the information they need in order to satisfy this requirement, we also realize that the final solution will require an increase in the treatment capacity of the water.”

Whitefish operates a 4 million gallon per day water treatment plant that treats water from Second and Third creeks in Haskill Basin and during peak usage times draws from Whitefish Lake. Though DEQ rates the plant at having a firm capacity of 3 million gallons per day when one filer is taken out of service.

“While this may only be a concern for a few days a year during peak demand season, the time has come to hire a consultant to assist staff with the increase of our water treatment capacity,” Workman said.

Mayor John Muhlfeld pointed out that the city needs to expand its treatment capacity, and although it is searching for future longterm water sources to serve the city, it is not a lack of water currently that’s driving the need for upgrades.

He pointed out that the city has worked to address loss of water in the system through replacing leaking cast iron mains in the system, and approved a water conservation ordinance aimed wasting less water.

“We’re taking very proactive steps to address this,” he said.

In addition to actual expansion of the water treatment plant, the city plans several other pieces of the project to expand capacity including, extension of the Whitefish Lake intake structure, expansion of the lake intake pump station, installation of a parallel water main to the water treatment plant and extension of the city’s sanitary sewer to the water plant.

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