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History of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota Water Facilities--Scott Gilbertson

As told by Scott Gilbertson
Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

Story Narrative:

This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded for the Be Here: Main Street project, a collaboration with the MuseWeb Foundation to record stories from rural America. 

"My name is Scott Gilbertson and I am the waste water supervisor for Detroit Lakes Public Utilities. The Detroit Lakes waste water treatment facility was organization constructed in 1929, which was a long time ago and for a mechanical facility to be constructed for a city, they were probably on the cutting edge in the state of Minnesota. Before then, most waste water just flowed in any available stream or river, straight piped.

Detroit Lakes, because we are surrounded by lakes and don't have a river to discharge to, we're proactive and built the originally facility in 1929 and it had significant upgrades in 1942, in the late 60s, in the 70s, with the last one being in 1995.

Currently we treat waste water or the influent is sewage from residential and commercial properties. We usually treat around 1.1, 1.2 million gallons a day. Since I've been here, the highest we've recorded was about 2.4 million gallons in one day. Our population is right around 9,400 people. We don't have a lot of industry. When I say industry, I consider wet industry like a large, that we could call it a meat packing facility or a large dairy facility, we don't have that in Detroit Lakes.

Currently we're in design of a large upgrade which essentially will replace the current facility and it'll be a state of the art membrane bioreactor based treatment system. The water quality from our new system will be of water reuse quality. We will expend a lot of money to meet some very stringent nutrient limits, mostly phosphorous is a large component and the new permits that we are required to come into compliance with are basically forces us to build a new waste water plant because the current facility could not reach those limits.

The new facility will essentially remove 99% of the phosphorous in the water along with a large portion of the nitrogen and everything else will be eliminated because it is a membrane treatment system. Why we have such stringent phosphorous limits is the lake that we currently discharge to is impaired for phosphorous, so that nutrient effects the quality of that body of water. More importantly, that body of water, St. Clair Lake, actually flows down to Muskrat Lake and eventually Lake Sally and Melissa, which are very high quality, high recreation, high value lakes.

The utility for Detroit Lakes, the city we understand the quality of those lakes. We're doing everything we can to protect those water bodies and we hope that St. Clair Lake will improve in water quality over the years, but we also understand the big picture that we're part of a chain and part of the Pelican River watershed."

Asset ID #3909

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