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Ramsey is moving ahead with plans to build a water treatment plant, something the city has never had.

The City Council this week approved a resolution allowing bids for the facility, which at a projected cost of $37 million would be the largest public works project in the northwestern Anoka County community's history.

"We feel it's necessary now and for the future," Mayor Mark Kuzma said .

Ramsey officials have been eyeing a plant since 2019, when the Minnesota Department of Health detected concentrations of manganese above recommended health guidelines in several of the city's eight wells.

Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral found in rocks, soil and groundwater and is needed to help the body form connective tissue and bones and break down carbohydrates, proteins and cholesterol. But too much can be harmful.

"Children and adults who drink water with high levels of manganese for a long time may have problems with memory, attention and motor skills," according to the health department.

A safe level of manganese is 300 micrograms per liter of water for ages 1 and older and 100 micrograms for infants, according to department guidelines.

In May 2019, Ramsey sent a letter outlining the water quality issues to the 5,600 customers connected to its water system. Since then, the city has primarily used three wells with the lowest concentrations of manganese to supply water, but those wells have high concentrations of iron, leading to complaints about discolored water, said Bruce Westby, Public Works director and city engineer.

Since then, city staff members have conducted 15 random water samples each month and published results on the city's website. Some wells have tested above health department guidelines, including six in August 2022 and five in October.

The water treatment plant would provide a permanent solution to the manganese and iron problem, officials said.

The facility would be designed to filter 10 million gallons of water a day, far above current usage, which peaks at about 6 million gallons a day during the summer. The building would also include a control room, lab, meeting room and restroom, according to project manager Aaron Vollmer with the consulting firm AE2S.

Ramsey has about $29 million collected over the years from water and sewer customers to use for the project, Westby said at Tuesday's council meeting.

"We have been planning for this," he said.

To fill the funding gap, customers may see up to a 10% rate hike, but that could be lower if the Legislature appropriates $10 to $20 million the city is asking for, said Council Member Matt Woestehoff.

In 2022, the average monthly residential water bill in Ramsey was $18.17, according to AE2S.

Ramsey plans to advertise the project starting Friday, with a goal of reviewing bids March 28. Construction could begin in April and would take two years.