Illegal sewer connection possible source of milky substance in Lake Calhoun

It started with a milky, white substance. It could end in fines.

While investigating reports in April of an unknown material seeping into Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis Public Works inspectors discovered an illegal, undocumented storm sewer connection to a swimming pool at the nearby Minikahda Club. That connection is now viewed as the probable origin of the substance.

Pools aren’t allowed to drain into storms sewers, said Bradley Blackhawk, chief inspector for utility connections. In this case, he said the city didn’t even know the connection existed.
“That piece of sewer, we didn’t know when it was handed over or when it was put in,” Blackhawk said.

Undiscovered connections are nothing new to the city, he said. The city hasn’t always owned all of its sewer lines and older connections weren’t always marked down. Every once in a while, unknown lines are stumbled upon.
“There’s more out there,” Blackhawk said.

Jim Jennings, general manager of the Minikahda Club, said its connection to the storm sewer was installed in 1935 and that he’s known of its existence for more than 20 years. “But we’ve never had any real problems,” he said.

Jennings said water that drained from the club’s pool always had the chlorine burned out of it beforehand.

But pool water is pool water, Blackhawk said, and any connections that drain it into storm sewers are illegal — “especially those that go into lakes,” he said. All pool water should end up in the sanitary system, he said.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has been investigating the substance and its source since receiving a tip from a private citizen on April 29, the same day Park Board workers and commissioners reported a stream of phone calls about the substance.

MPCA spokesman Sam Brungardt said that because the investigation was ongoing, he couldn’t comment. However, he said his “guess” is that the Minikahda Club will be fined.

“It certainly is not supposed to be done,” Brungardt said when asked about pool water being drained into Lake Calhoun.

Brungardt said he expected it would take another slew of weeks before the MPCA would have its investigation finished, largely because of how thorough the organization must be in its results. He said he was not allowed at this time to identify what the substance was.

Jennings said it was probably dirt and debris from the pool. “Worst case scenario,” he said, “there might have been a few paint chips in there, but not a significant amount.”
Jennings said the Minikahda Club has since redirected its drains to the sanitary system, upon the city’s request.