Erected in 1963, the 1.5-million-gallon water tank on Penn Avenue is a prominent landmark in the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburb of Richfield, Minnesota. Situated within the same property as a fire station and serving as a critical infrastructure hub for three wireless providers, the tower plays a crucial role in water distribution, emergency services, and communications transmission for over 36,000 residents and businesses.
After years of spot repairs and an interior coating replacement in 2007, the City contacted SEH for an engineering evaluation, which determined the inside of the tank was in good condition. Still, the interior and exterior coatings needed to be upgraded. The bottom bowl and support columns also showed significant rusting and adhesion issues, including topcoat failure.
Adding to the project’s complexity, this renovation needed to happen without disrupting access to a nearby fire station, obstructing traffic on Penn Avenue, or interfering with telecom service. In addition, the tower was losing half of its storage capacity, potentially impacting the fire department.
The City partnered with SEH engineers to coordinate the water tower exterior rehabilitation project. Managing equipment through the process was crucial, with gear often packed onto the sidewalk, in stalls that the fire station allowed the team to use, and some on Penn Avenue itself.
To complete the sandblasting portion of the rehabilitation, the water tower was put under full containment. During the process, heavy-duty tarps were erected around the tower to ensure that the sandblasting and painting process did not harm the environment. A winch system was employed to pull up the containment system from inside the water tower. SEH provided full-time inspection during the project to ensure the containment served its purpose.
The tower's exterior received a complete overhaul, featuring a sleek finish and extensive use of aluminum plating. The non-hazardous coatings minimized dust emissions and prevented paint from drifting into the nearby community. Other improvements included a roof handrail for telecommunication support and a catwalk handrail around the equator.
Careful scheduling allowed Penn Avenue to remain open during the project by relocating utilities to a nearby pole and then reinstalling them afterward, and telecom systems were upgraded without disruption to service.
Coordination with users of the tower was a crucial part of the project. Notifications were sent out a year in advance and updates were communicated throughout the project. During the painting phase, exterior components were temporarily relocated and returned to the tower upon completion. Ensuring the City's satisfaction regarding logo placement and overall aesthetics was also a priority.
Despite the project's intricacies, the restoration was completed in approximately eight weeks, thanks to thoughtful design, careful planning, and a well-thought-out schedule.
- 2016 Engineering Excellence Honor Award | American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota (ACEC/MN)
Penn Avenue Tank Reconditioning
City of Richfield
- Water engineering
- Traffic control
- Mobilization access
- Traffic control and pedestrian safety
- Material selection
- Coating removal and application
- Full containment system
- Exterior tank bonnet
- Rust reducing tank coating
- Upgradable telecom system