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Woodbury, MN 55125

Tank of the Year – 31 Years Later!


It’s 1990. Current KLM Engineering owners Shawn Mulhern and Rod Ellis were working for another civil engineering company called AEC as inspectors on a reconditioning project in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Fast forward over 30 years later, and their work has lasted the test of time. One may even say it has exceeded that test.

Back then, most reconditioning projects were projected to last 15-20 years. This tank’s coating has officially surpassed 30 years, though. We recently spoke with Steve Hanson, the Utility Services Coordinator for Detroit Lakes, to get his input on the tank.

The toro ellipsoidal tank was their main water tower built back in 1969 and had been reconditioned 11 years later in 1980, and was already in need of being reconditioned again in 1990 when Steve met Shawn and Rod.

“We met back at the start of this project. I went to an AEC seminar prior to the project and met Shawn, but then the summer of 1990 when we started painting things just clicked,” Steve recalled.

He credits the success of the project to the contractor, paint materials, and proper preparation. In order to prepare the surface, they sandblasted all the way down to the white metal. Then they used an epoxy-based paint to coat the tank. However, he never expected the coating to last as long as it did.

Since the tank was last reconditioned, the city of Detroit Lakes has grown considerably. They have more than doubled their water distribution system to keep up with their growing community. Back in 1990, they only had 375 fire hydrants, but that number has more than doubled to 800. In addition to fire hydrants, they have also had to add miles of water mains in the ground. With all of that expansion, Steve says they cuurently need more storage.

While their current 1,000,000-gallon tank has served them well, the time may be near to replace it in favor of building a brand new 2,000,000-gallon tank. Even then, once the tank is no longer in service, there is no doubt it has impacted the community as a landmark, and will be remembered for years to come.

The success of this project can be attributed to a combination of an excellent team (owner, engineer, inspector, contractor, and material supplier). The proper specification is critical to the project. The project manager, field inspector, and contractor must work as a cooperative group for a successful project. Material supplies need to qualify the proper products for the current application at the right time of year. With a few repairs and touch ups here and there, this project was able to beat all expectations. Projects like this highlight just how important it is to have the right crew, materials, and surface preparation, which was why KLM was started. When your tank is ready for its next reconditioning, give us a call at 651-773-5111 to get started on the right foot.

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