Morris City Manager Blaine Hill assured the city council at its April 23 meeting the city will not "come storming into houses" to check water softeners.

However, the city will be strongly encouraging those who have outdated water softeners to stop using them and if data shows the need, the city may need to inspect softeners, Hill said. Also a city ordinance pertaining to water softeners says the city will ask permission from the property owner if it wants to inspect a water softener, Hill said.

The city accepted the first reading of Ordinance No. 112 that applies to water softeners and the sanitary sewer. The second reading and a public hearing on the ordinance is set for the May 14 meeting. The ordinance would repeal and replace City Code 3.40 which are rules and regulations relating to the sanitary sewer system.

The city is building a new water treatment plant to soften the water it supplies to customers because the level of sodium chloride released into the Pomme de Terre River is higher than MPCA standards. The MPCA has said the city must correct the discharge problem. The city chose to build a new $18 million water treatment plant in order to reduce the need for customers to soften the city's water. The plant will paid for by a combination of the $12 million state grants and a $6 million loan and an increases in water rates.

"We're trying to keep the river as clean as possible," Mayor Sheldon Giese said.

The ordinance includes three options for those who use water softeners.

"There is no reason to be dumping a lot of salt into water softeners if you don't need to," Hill said. Unneeded salt wastes money and it can created discharge problems for the city, he said.

The new water treatment plant is expected to begin operating in May. It will soften the 45 to 47 grains of hardness in the water to 5 grains of hardness.

People who have older softeners can bypass the softener, unplug it or change it out for an on-demand softener that only softens the water to the needed level, Hill said.

Hill said a city resident had questioned whether the city had the right to enter someone's property to inspect a water softener.

The ordinance includes getting the property owner's permission to enter the property and inspect the softener, Hill said. Also, the city does have the option to seek an administrative order from a judge in order to inspect water softeners, he said.

Hill said most residents and property owners would likely agree to an inspection if needed. And because property owners won't want to waste money on unnecessary salt they'd make changes with their softeners which would make inspections unlikely, Hill said.

The city will increase water rates from $2.50 per 100 cubic feet of water to $4.53 shortly after the water plant opens. One-hundred cubic feet of water is about 750 gallons of water.