Dirty water from site of new Gophers stadium went into river

5:02 PM, Sep 23, 2007   |    comments
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Dirty water from the construction site of the new University of Minnesota football stadium was dumped into the Mississippi River earlier this year, and the university could face thousands of dollars in fines. An April inspection by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency resulted in an "enforcement letter of warning" that pinpointed seven potential environmental violations. The possible violations included a "sediment plume with a chemical odor" that was seen in the Mississippi River on May 3; dirt in the streets; and inadequate filters to stop water and possible contaminants from going into the stormwater system. University officials said the problems associated with laying the sewer line were immediately corrected. "Based on everything our consultant showed us and testing of discharge water that was done, I do not believe there was any problem with what was going into the river," said Brian Swanson, the university's stadium project coordinator. State pollution control officials would not discuss the severity of the pollution. "All I can say about this case is that there's pending civil legal action and that's why the case is not public," said Katie Koelfgen, MPCA compliance coordinator for the construction stormwater program. The $288 million, 50,000-seat open-air stadium is scheduled to open in September 2009 northeast of Mariucci and Williams arenas. Swanson said the water was pumped into the river while a major new sewer pipe was being installed. The university's construction stormwater permit requires that any water pumped from the site must be filtered before it enters street drains -- which route all stormwater into the Mississippi River. Koelfgen said stormwater construction permits are required to prevent dirt and possible contaminants like oil from being flushed into lakes or rivers. Contractors are usually required to install filter fences, sediment traps or sediment ponds. Failure to do so has ended with fines varying from $5,000 to "tens of thousands of dollars," Koelfgen said, depending upon the severity of alleged violations and the pollution's impact. The university's general contractor, Thomas & Sons Construction Inc., apparently didn't have all those devices in place during the MPCA inspection on April 26. A May 10 letter from the agency said the university should stop discharging groundwater to the storm sewer. Swanson said he immediately told contractors to pump any discharge water to the sanitary sewer system where it could be treated. That process ended on July 20 when the sewer pipe installation was finished. (Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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