Did Minikahda Club’s illegal pipe put stanky pool water into Lake Calhoun?

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A Minneapolis Public Works Department investigation into the source of a mysterious milky-white substance that appeared in Lake Calhoun April 29 has led to the discovery of an illegal sewer line from the swimming pool of the private Minikahda Club.

“This is an illegal and undocumented sewer connection,” Bradley J. Blackhawk, the city’s chief inspector for utility connections, wrote in an internal June 3 e-mail. “Pool drains have never been allowed to tie directly into a storm sewer.” In another e-mail, Rhonda Rae, director of surface water and sewers for the city’s Public Works Department, wrote that it appeared that the club had been sandblasting its pool but that results from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) testing weren’t in yet. Officials at the MPCA and Minneapolis Public Works weren’t immediately available for comment; we’ll update this story when they respond.

Jim Jennings, Minikahda Club general manager, told the Minnesota Monitor he’s been aware for 23 years that the pool drained to the lake via storm sewers, and that it’s done so since 1935. But during once-a-year cleanings, Jennings said, the club allows several days for chlorine levels to drop before draining the pool. He said that in April it was spraying the pool with water, not sandblasting, that allowed silty water, possibly with some paint chips, to enter the lake. The club has since hired contractors who disconnected the pool pipe from the storm drain and rerouted it into the club’s existing sanitary sewer.

Minneapolis Park Commissioner Annie Young raised the alarm April 29 with word from park staff that the city’s regulatory services department had “traced the substance, which has spread about 200 yards down the shore, to a private line coming from the Minnekhada Club … Unfortunately, the substance cannot be contained nor can it be extracted from the lake water.”

The Minikahda Club, established in 1898 and best known for its 18-hole golf course, is located on the west side of Lake Calhoun. The club’s swimming pool dates to 1935, when in the midst of the Great Depression 111 club members raised $30,000 to build it. According to the club’s Web site, “The name Minikahda comes from the Sioux, a combination of two Indian words meaning ‘by the side of the water.'” The Web site doesn’t say what words the Sioux have for a private club that drains its swimming pool into a public lake.