Park Rapids suspends Enbridge water withdrawal from city hydrants

August 19, 2021

By Barbara With and Rebecca Kemble

Today, the city of Park Rapids, MN stopped selling municipal water to Precision Pipeline, a contractor for Enbridge, who is working on constructing the Line 3 pipeline across 1855 Treaty Territory. The city began selling water out of city fire hydrants earlier this summer to support Enbridge operations.

In early June, water meters and hoses were installed at three different locations in Park Rapids to facilitate Precision Pipeline’s quick and easy access to the water. Other businesses purchasing water in bulk are required to purchase their water at the Park Rapids bulk water facility.

Video: Billy Smith

According to the Park Rapids Water and Sewer department website, the average daily demand for municipal water is 500,000 gallons. On August 2, 2021 Precision withdrew 68,000 gallons from just one of the three hydrants, nearly 15% of the average daily demand.

Park Rapids resident Pam Brock has been monitoring this hydrant on Highway 34 near Larson Avenue. On August 2, the meter showed 1.643 million gallons; the next day it showed 1.711 million, for a total of 68,000 gallons. Photos: Pam Brock

When asked about Park Rapids selling water to contractors constructing Line 3, City Administrator Angelica Weasner said, “I was notified yesterday by the State of Minnesota that we’ve been elevated to ‘extreme drought‘ conditions, and we need to contact our ten top vendors and at this point in time, they [Precision Pipeline] are one of them, and we are not going to allow them to withdraw any more water. Over the whole timeframe [since early June], they have withdrawn six million gallons.”

To get a sense of what six million gallons of water withdrawal looks like, the tanker in the video above is 53′ long and has the capacity to carry 10,000 gallons. It would take 600 of these trucks to carry six million gallons. That’s a six-mile long line of bumper-to-bumper trucks.

There are two different sets of rules and rates for water purchasers in Park Rapids: One for residential customers, another for commercial customers. Earlier this summer, residents of Park Rapids were forbidden from “non-essential” water usage, including lawn watering, car washing, and power washing of homes. Commercial customers were exempted from these restrictions, so they could wash their equipment and buildings and water their lawns, while residents could not. Furthermore, commercial customers pay a discounted rate for water withdrawals over 45,000 gallons per month, paying only $4.78 per 1,000 gallons, while residential customers pay $5.25 per 1,000 gallons.

City Administrator Weasner said that while the city has the authority to manage water withdrawals, it has relied on state orders to do so this summer. The decision to install meters and sell water to Precision was made at the staff level without city council or resident participation or knowledge. At their August 9, 2021 City Council meeting, resident Kent Brock asked council members whether they knew about the water sales, or where the water was going. Council Member Randall replied, “You need to recognize that we, as council members, we may not know the information.”

Meanwhile, lakes and rivers in the area are at their lowest levels in decades. According to the Minnesota DNR’s Weekly Stream Flow Report, most of the rivers in the upper Mississippi watershed are running at or below 10% of their normal capacity.

While testifying at the August 9 meeting, Brock said he followed a Precision truck after it had withdrawn water from a Park Rapids hydrant to a “man camp” (temporary housing for pipeline workers) in Backus, MN. When he asked the council if they knew where the water was going, Weasner replied that she did. In a follow-up interview with WCMC, Weasner explained, “We do not know where the trucks are going, we just know the water is going into the trucks.”

UPDATE: As of 7 PM on Thursday, August 19, the meters and hoses were leaking and still attached to the hydrants.

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3 Comments on “Park Rapids suspends Enbridge water withdrawal from city hydrants”

  1. Thomas E Nelson & Kirsten L Pedersen August 19, 2021 at 7:48 pm #

    GOOD EYE! WAY TO STAY VIGILANT! The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

  2. Rita Fairbanks August 21, 2021 at 5:02 pm #

    Water is precious. With all the drought why would these pipeline trucks even be allowed to withdraw so much water while residents have t suffer. Why does residents have t pay more than commercial properties it should b the other way around. Pipelines should have to pay double and people should know what they are using it for not just dose the water out. Me yes talk but water is still precious.

  3. rob August 27, 2021 at 1:42 pm #

    Fire the city council and the city administrator, immediately for conspiracy to commit fraud or just for the heck of it!!!!!

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