Marion works to solve discolored water problems caused by excess minerals
The small town of Marion in western Kentucky was faced with a permanent water shortage for months, and now local authorities have faced reports in recent weeks of discolored tap water coming out of residents’ taps.
The county seat of Crittenden lifted a one-week boil water advisory for its water system in August and stopped distributing bottled water to residents earlier this month, telling the community of less than 3,000 that tap water is safe to drink.
But the city shut down its water plant on September 7 due to reports from the community of tap water that was tinged red and discolored. Marion City administrator Adam Ledford said in an interview on Wednesday that the problem was caused by a buildup of the mineral manganese in the city’s water plant filters, which treated the heavy metal from the water. raw from local lakes.
“The raw water actually contained a lower level of manganese than that which passed through the filters. So we were actually adding manganese to the water, not taking it out,” Ledford said. “It is very helpful to be able to identify this problem and put in place corrective action to resolve it.”
The United States Environmental Protection Agency regulates manganese in drinking water as a “secondary contaminant”, which means that these contaminants in the water are “not hazardous to health” but can affect the color, taste and odor of water and ” can cause large numbers of people to stop using water from their public water supply even though the water is actually safe to drink.
According to the Kentucky Division of Water and the EPA, manganese in drinking water can have a bitter metallic taste and can discolor water brown and black and cause stains of similar colors on linens, china, dishes. , utensils, glassware, sinks, light fixtures and concrete. . In an Oklahoma community last month, reported residents yellow water coming out of taps which local officials have also attributed to manganese.
Manganese occurs naturally in the environment and is needed in trace amounts by humans and animals for normal bodily functions. It can cause neurological problems at very high levels over long periods of time. The EPA sets a non-enforceable limit for heavy metals in drinking water at 0.05 milligrams per liter for “cosmetic considerations” and “is not considered to pose a risk to human health” at the limit suggested by the EPA.
Ledford said the city is hiring a company to clean the water plant filters early next week to fix the problem, and the Kentucky Water Division is reworking the water treatment to better treat excess manganese from raw water.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Cabinet of Energy and Environment said the Marion water plant would not come back online until “manganese processing is under control.” .
“The water plant will be acid washed/cleaned next week to remove manganese deposits that were caused by a previous treatment attempt,” the spokesperson said. “In order to [remove] manganese, Marion will increase their sodium permanganate (pre-oxidant) 6-7x to meet raw water demand. They will also switch to an iron-based coagulant which is more conducive to manganese removal.
Marion drew raw water from Old City Lake, the community’s backup water source, and from Lake George, the city’s former main water source which had been drained in April but partially collapsed. filled with precipitation. Until September 7, the city used both treated water from the lake and treated water from the water district of neighboring Crittenden-Livingston County. With the water plant closed, Ledford said Marion currently gets all her water — about 190,000 gallons a day — from that nearby water district.
With water conservation still being advised by local authorities, the city’s system only uses around 70% of the water it would use under normal circumstances. Marion is still working on a long-term water supply solution, which in the future could include supplying water to the City of Princeton, the Crittenden-Livingston County Water District, or rebuilding the lake levee. George. who has been raped before for the lake to once again serve as the city’s main water supply.
Ledford hopes that in about a week to ten days the cleaned filters and new water treatment will see “a significant improvement in the quality of the water leaving the plant”.
Despite messages from city and state officials that discolored water is still safe to drink, some Marion residents do not trust tap water.
Marion resident Dianne Adams said in an interview Wednesday that the color of her tap water had improved in recent days, but still had a yellow tint. She does not use the water for drinking or cooking and only recently started using tap water for laundry.
“It looks like someone urinated in it,” Adams said. “I took a bath in there when it was really yellow and I just smelled, when I came out it was like I felt just as dirty as when I walked in.”
Adams also sends her 7-year-old granddaughter to a local school with bottled water so she doesn’t have to drink tap water, and she brought a case of bottled water for the class of her granddaughter. She plans to continue using the three weeks of bottled water she previously received from the city.
After being told about the manganese problem, she said she didn’t know when she would feel comfortable with tap water.
Kristi Beavers, who runs a local car wash in town, said that about a day before the town’s water plant closed, she filled a tank with water for her car wash. The water she put in “discolored the whole tank” and looked like “chocolate milk”.
“I’m like, ‘Well, you know, nobody wants to wash their car in there, let alone their body and their clothes and drink it or anything,'” Beavers said.
Beavers said she had left the community since Marion’s water shortage began, but had heard that other people in town had been having trouble with discolored water.
At a special Marion City Council meeting on Monday, Jackie Logsdon, an environmental scientist with the Kentucky Division of Water, told meeting attendees that manganese in the water was “an aesthetic problem ” and “not a health problem”.
“I know discolored water is ugly, and I understand why you don’t want to drink that.” And I wouldn’t either,” Logsdon said during the reunion. “If we have any questions about water quality, we will ensure that some sort of advisory is issued.
“I assure you that I would never tell anyone the water was safe if I wasn’t sure it was.”
Ledford said he hasn’t heard of any complaints about discolored water since the water plant shut down, but he encourages residents to contact the city if they continue to have problems. The official said the city can then help residents better discern the cause of discolored water, such as if a home’s water heater hasn’t been flushed recently.