City to work with DNR and affected well owners on settlement
An investigation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has concluded that the water supply wells for the city of Blaine were the primary cause of supply issues in nearby domestic wells during the summer of 2022. A DNR report released today includes the investigation of 50 individual complaints from private well owners in the Blaine and Ham Lake area and found 47 of those complaints to be valid.
All 47 residents with valid complaints have had their water supply restored. At the time residents began reporting problems, three of the wells the city was operating were unpermitted. The city stopped pumping from those three wells after DNR informed them that the wells were not authorized for use. Two golf course irrigation wells were each found to be minor contributors to one residential well interference (one each).
A well interference occurs when a pump draws groundwater from a well (typically a deep well of a higher volume water user), causing the water level in the surrounding aquifer to go down and resulting in a lack of water available to shallower wells (typically private domestic wells).
Groundwater aquifers in the Blaine and Ham Lake area are strongly connected to each other. Because of these connections, pumping large volumes of water from one part of the aquifer system can cause water levels to drop several miles away.
“Like many growing communities, the city of Blaine has been seeking to expand water supply sources to meet the increased water demands of its community,” said DNR Conservation Assistance and Regulation Section Manager Randall Doneen. “Expansion of water supplies is difficult and complex, especially when a growing community has many neighboring private domestic wells.”
“Blaine has worked closely with independent consultants and the DNR over the last several years as the city has enhanced our water infrastructure,” Blaine spokesperson Ben Hayle said. “The city has been anticipating the completion of this DNR investigation and is ready to continue to work with private well owners to mitigate impacts that are determined to be related to the city’s growing water infrastructure. Blaine is committed to responsibly providing high quality water service to our growing municipal customer base while also protecting private well owners."
The DNR has issued letters to the city, the two golf courses, and the complainants to provide the results of the investigation and initiate a well interference settlement process. Over the next 30 days, the DNR will assist the city, the two golf courses and the individual complainants as they seek to negotiate monetary settlements for the costs incurred to restore residential water supplies.
The DNR also continues to investigate 24 additional complaints in the area. Anyone who owns a private well in the Blaine/Ham Lake area and has had water supply problems that they believe are due to high-capacity pumping should contact Claudia Hochstein at the DNR, at 651-259-5034.
“Minnesota water law requires the DNR to protect domestic water supplies,” Doneen said. “Municipal and private domestic water supplies – water for drinking, bathing and sanitation – are by law the highest-priority water use. While we know the city certainly didn’t intend to cause negative impacts on private domestic wells, this situation underscores the reality that Minnesota’s water supplies are not unlimited.”
Additional information regarding this matter, including an informational video, are available on the DNR website.