City to assist private Bemidji well owners who may be impacted by nearby chemicals

An incentive program was created Monday by the Bemidji City Council to encourage property owners to hook up to the municipal water system. The program is targeted to residents who live near an area with contaminated groundwater.

Bemidji City Hall 2020 web art.jpg
Bemidji City Hall.

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji property owners near an area with contaminated water will now have incentives to hook up to the city's system.

The program, established by the Bemidji City Council on Monday, June 21, will be available to 19 property owners in the Bardwell Park neighborhood, located south of Anne Street and west of U.S. Highway 71. To the west of the neighborhood is the area where the city's water wells are located.

Over the past decade, the city was made aware of chemicals known as PFAs in that area that were in the groundwater, and subsequently, in the wells. To meet state health and environmental standards, the city constructed a water treatment plant to remove the chemicals going into the municipal supply.

While the city's water is now being treated, there is a chance the plume of chemicals may continue moving east and could enter private wells in the Bardwell Park neighborhood. However, testing has shown no chemicals in private wells yet.

Because of the risk, the city created a new program for these residents, which includes two elements.


One is to waive the payment of any water access charge to the residents of the area, which is estimated at either $845 or $1,268. The other is to help cover the cost of the water connection charge, which can come to about $4,000.

The program was approved with two motions, as the council unanimously passed the waiver for the water access charge. An amount of up to $4,000 was established for the other incentive, which was approved in a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Jorge Prince, as well as Councilmembers Ron Johnson, Daniel Jourdain, Josh Peterson, Emelie Rivera and Audrey Thayer in favor, while Nancy Erickson was against.

The incentive program will be available until Nov. 1, 2022.

Other council business

The council also invested in firefighting equipment Monday with two motions. One motion was related to the Rural Fire Association, which contracts with the city.

The city recently constructed the Nymore Fire Station and purchased a new ladder truck. For an appropriate capital distribution, per the contract, the RFA will purchase the next fire engine with related costs, estimated at $1.1 million.

To do so, the RFA needs $500,000 of short-term financing. The council agreed to the financing, with a schedule of it to be repaid by the end of 2027.

The approval for the financing was made in a 5-2 vote, with Johnson, Jourdain, Peterson, Prince, and Rivera in favor, while Erickson and Thayer were against. The council also unanimously approved a new $60,000 vehicle for the deputy fire chief to go out to inspection sites.

Another decision made by the council was altering a proposed ordinance amendment allowing some residents in rural areas of the city to be able to hunt with certain types of firearms. Many of the residents who were annexed last year from Northern Township had been able to do so on their property under that government's rules.


Last year, those residents asked if the hunting practices could continue and the city has been reviewing how to make it possible. An ordinance amendment was conceived and recently, it was reviewed by the city's Deer Committee.

Two suggestions from the committee added to the amendment with the council's approval were prohibiting shotgun slugs and requiring a minimum ownership parcel size of five acres. The suggestions were approved in a 6-1 vote, with Erickson, Jourdain, Peterson, Prince, Rivera and Thayer in favor, while Johnson was against.

A public hearing on the ordinance amendment will be held at the council's next meeting.

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