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Water turns brown, and it may be that way a while

 

Posted 10/25/16 (Tue)

Water turns brown, and it may be that way a while

By Kevin Killough
The completion of the new Tioga water tower, as well as added water main lines, have an unpleasant side effect that may not be resolved for years to come.
The tower is about 20 feet higher than the old tower, and that adds another 10 to 15 pounds of pressure through the city’s water infrastructure. 
The added water main lines are creating new directions for water to flow, sending water down corroded pipes in directions it wasn’t previously flowing.
Because 70 blocks in Tioga still have old cast-iron pipes, suddenly the flow is knocking loose the old rust and leaving many residents’ water brown. 
“Now everything starts flying around,” said Antonio Conti, city engineer. 
Safe but ugly
The minerals in the water won’t hurt you, and city officials want to assure residents the Department of Health has tested the water and found no health threats. But it doesn’t look very pleasant. 
“There’s no concern,” Conti said. “It’s just ugly.”
Among those with issues is local resident Jeff Spivey, who submitted a written complaint to the city last week.
He recently performed $15,000 in renovations to his bathroom, including a new bathtub. 
The brown water has left a stain around it that he said he’s been unable to remove. It’s a new fiberglass tub, and he’s careful not to damage it by using anything harsher than bleach and soft cleaners. 
“I understand they’re trying to improve the water lines, but it’s causing an issue,” he said.
He said the city is being up front and honest with him about the situation, and they are discussing what can be done to remedy the situation. 
“I’m not trying to start anything. I just don’t want to eat the cost to clean it,” Spivey said. 
Hard problem 
Conti said it could possibly get worse before it gets better when the new water main comes online. The Western Area Water Supply Authority installed the line going up 105th Avenue last summer. 
It will start flowing in about four to six weeks. 
That will bring a 16-inch line from another direction into town, which will result in water moving through the pipes faster and in directions it’s not used to. 
That’s only going to knock loose more of the rust. 
Water Commissioner John Grubb said he wants people to know the city is aware of the issue. They also suspected this would happen at some point. Unfortunately, there was no feasible way to prevent it short of keeping the old infrastructure, and it could take years to rectify. 
Conti estimates very roughly that replacing all the old water lines would cost the city about $14 million and take at least two building seasons if it were all done at once. 
In the meantime, Conti said the best thing residents can do is install a filter on the lines coming into their homes. 
Spivey received a quote from a filter supplier of just over $200 for the filter alone, including shipping and handling. The price does not include installation.