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Leonard to get rural water service

LEONARD -- The day when residents here can turn on the tap and not have to worry about toxic arsenic in their water has drawn a big step closer. The State Water Commission has awarded a grant that will pay three-quarters of the cost of extending ...

LEONARD -- The day when residents here can turn on the tap and not have to worry about toxic arsenic in their water has drawn a big step closer.

The State Water Commission has awarded a grant that will pay three-quarters of the cost of extending rural water service to this town of 230 located 25 miles southwest of Fargo.

The decision must be ratified by the board of the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, but the board's executive committee has recommended approval for the grant and water managers view final approval as virtually certain.

Once the grant is approved, design work can begin and construction could start this summer, with rural water service available in Leonard and nearby areas no later than next spring, said Jerry Blomeke, manager of the Cass Rural Water District.

"The fact that we can get this fixed is a godsend," said Leonard resident Tracey Jacobson, whose well was found to contain arsenic at a level of 127 parts per billion, more than a dozen times higher than the 10 parts per billion considered safe for public drinking water systems. "I'm so grateful."

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Leonard has no municipal water service. Residents and businesses get their water from private wells on their property. Private wells are not bound by the standards that apply to public drinking water systems.

Arsenic in drinking water causes bladder, lung and skin cancer, and may cause liver and kidney cancer, according to a study by the National Academy of Science. Arsenic also harms the nervous system, heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin conditions, according to the study.

The cost of extending rural water service to Leonard is estimated at $3.1 million, with more than $2.3 million covered by the grant, Blomke said.

Cass Rural Water already planned a major expansion of a water treatment plant located 6 miles south of Leonard, a project that should be completed by mid-summer. "The timing for this Leonard project is very good," Blomeke said.

Low-interest loans will be available to help residents pay their quarter-share of the cost of connecting to rural water service.

"It will be very affordable for everybody," said Duane Wadeson, a rural Leonard resident whose well water is so contaminated with arsenic that he and his wife spend most of their time at a farmstead near Fort Ransom.

The cost for Leonard residents is likely to be in the $1,000 to $1,500 range in Wadeson's estimates. He has signed up at least 105 households that want rural water service. "The more people we get, the lower the cost will be," he said.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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