During a Public Works update at the November 7 meeting, the Peterson Council learned that more than 80% of the water connection inspections are complete. The inspections were part of the Lead and Copper Rule regulation. Originally published by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1991, the agency revised the rule, and the state put it into effect in 2021 to support actions to reduce lead in drinking water.
The process had some surprises, according to Public Works Director Tim Hallum. Most of the connections and system service line materials in the city of Peterson are copper. In drinking water systems, lead pipes and lead alloys (bronze, brass) used for plumbing fittings are toxic at any level.
“If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion,” states the EPA. “If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.”
“Most people in town have copper,” said Hallum. “I was really shocked.”
Over 80% of North American water service installations, repairs, and replacements are copper. However, it’s the fittings and soldering that are the issue. The EPA recommends copper fittings, no-lead copper alloy valves, components, lead-free solders, or solderless systems.
Inspections should be complete next week, far ahead of the October 2024 deadline. Once done, the Department of Health requires municipalities to notify properties regarding the discovery of any lead, galvanizing needing replacement, or “lead status unknown” service lines. Each property will get its results. The EPA mandates corrosion control for lead and copper pipes and replacements for lines failing to meet the ppb minimums.
Last month, the Peterson Council voted unanimously to apply a $100 fine to properties violating zoning ordinances related to nuisance vehicles and junk/clutter. The council gave the properties until October 31 to comply with ordinances. If not, the properties faced additional fines.
The problem has been ongoing, but strategies implemented through ordinances made little difference in some cases. By the city adding fines, it is prompting property owners to clean up. At the November 7 meeting, Mayor Chris Stenzel provided an update on the properties and the three that received citation letters from the city after the October meeting.
According to Stenzel, there’s been progress on each one of them. “With the good weather, it gives them an opportunity to clean up. Hopefully, we do see some action with these,” he said.
Should the progress towards zoning compliance cease, however, the city can utilize an increase in fines of up to $300 per day if the condition exists. If the fines go unpaid, the city certifies the amount to Fillmore County, which they add to property taxes.
The council also briefly discussed overdue utility bills. There are currently nine. The council unanimously approved certifying the amounts to the county for property taxes. The bills can still be paid through December, in which case the city would contact the county to have the amount removed from the rolls. The amounts vary, with the lowest being $604 and the highest $9,130. Three are below $1,000, and four are below $2,000. The largest is a commercial property. The total due to the city from all nine properties is $18,121.
“It’s pretty typical,” said City Clerk Chris Grindland. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary on this.”
The council also unanimously approved the renewal of liability insurance, the new fire service contract with Rushford Fire Department, and the purchase of a new zero-turn mower.
The current mower, used for an estimated 90% of city property, is four years old and has more than 800 hours on it. A quote from Hammel Equipment of Rushford offered the last in-stock zero-turn mower for $13,500. With a trade-in on the current mower of $5,000, plus a $750 government discount, the city can snap up the new mower for just $7,750. Four years ago, the current mower cost was $8,800.
“For the amount of hours we put on it, I would hate to get to the middle of the season and not have it,” said Hallum. “We considered selling it outright, but the trade-in price was good. You’re getting some value yet out of this machine.”
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Wednesday, December 13, at 6 p.m. at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.