Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mystery of the Month - January

Left: Eric Korte, Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator, navigates the Mississippi River in search of the Beltline outlet.
Right: Dave Vlasin, Water Quality Technician at RWMWD, gives a thumbs-up while deep in the Beltline.

What are the Two Water Quality Technicians Up To Now?

Dave Vlasin seems to enjoy confined spaces. Eric Korte loves the wind through his hair. How are these activities so closely related?

Two words: The Beltline.

The Beltline is a giant pipe that carries water from the end of the Phalen Chain of Lakes to the Mississippi. Formerly this job was done by the Phalen Creek. Constructed in the 1920s, it helps to collect storm sewer runoff from a great bulk of the District (see map below), and directs it to the Mississippi River.  Because it is the pathway through which water from so much of the District leaves our system, monitoring what goes through it is essential.
Beginning at the outlets of Lake Phalen and Beaver Lake, water runoff flows through the Beltline and out to the Mississippi.  The Beltline drains the entire area outlined in red above! The green star in the map shows where the Beltline pipe outlets to the Mississippi. Click to enlarge.

For a more detailed history of the beltline, follow the link below.


So, what exactly are Eric and Dave doing in the beltline? With help from Met Council and Teledyne ISCO staff, Eric and Dave recently installed ISCO’s LazerFlow system. Attached to the ceiling of the beltline tunnel, this important piece of equipment has the capability of calculating water velocity and volume no matter the water depth. In contrast our old system would lose the signal if the water level would drop below one foot, leaving us with an incomplete dataset. 

This improved system allows for constant, accurate flow (velocity) and level (volume) measurements that will provide a complete data set for the water quality team as well as Met Council to use in assessing further water quality needs. So if, for example, a water quality sample is taken and determined to have X amount of phosphorus per liter, we can better determine the total nutrient load headed down the Beltline pipe if we know how much water (how many liters) are traveling through it.

Below is a series of pictures illustrating the installation of the new flow meter and the path the water takes to its destination in the Mississippi River.
Left: Dave descends down the manhole into the Beltline.  Middle: Eric lowers down scaffolding and equipment for the installation.  Right: Scaffolding successfully set up inside the beltline. Note the scale of the beltline relative to the scaffolding and human figures.

Travis DeGroot from ISCO sales helps install the LazerFlow.  Middle: LazerFlow set in place on the ceiling of the Beltline.  Right: Surrounded by spray paint dashes, a laser beam (small red dot in center) shoots to the ground of the Beltline to measure storm runoff flow.

Left and right: The unsuspecting boater might never imagine this is the stormwater outlet for parts of East St. Paul, Maplewood, Little Canada, Vadnais Heights, White Bear Lake, North St. Paul, and Oakdale.
Not only has the Water Quality team been busy installing new equipment in the Beltline. They are also starting preparations for a big inspection of the pipe that happens every 5 years. This inspection will take roughly 16 full work days and will involve both BARR Engineering and Watershed Staff. Staff will be walking the entire length of the Beltline pipe looking for anything out of the ordinary (cracks, seeps, debris, etc), with hopes that there will be nothing out of the ordinary to find.

Stay tuned, and hopefully we can get some more photos from what lies beneath!

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