By CARL SMITH
Starkville Water Department workers are actively flushing the city’s water lines to clear out brown, discolored water caused by a mineral buildup.
The discoloration has been reported by citizens as being lightly golden to, as Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn said, “much darker than tea.”
Starkville Public Services Director Doug Devlin said although the water is discolored, it is still safe to drink.
At the end of 2009, the department raised the chlorine level of the city’s water system in order to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2006 Safe Drinking Water Act. Increased chlorine levels cause further oxidation of existing iron deposits on the interior walls of iron pipes in the city’s water system, and further oxidation can cause portions of these deposits to break loose when changes occur in the flow of water. These deposits turn water brown.
Residents who are experiencing this condition should run their cold water tap until the water clears. If it doesn’t clear and remains discolored for an extended amount of time, residents can call the Starkville Water and Sewer Maintenance Office at (662) 325-3505 and personnel will flush hydrants in their area.
“What we’re doing now is unidirectional flushing. It’s really just a reactionary measure done as people call in,” he said. “We start at the water plants and then start flushing hydrants to the outer boundaries of the distribution system. What we’re doing now is not making the problem go away permanently, it’s just temporarily solving it as we can.”
During Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting, Devlin said he will approach the board and ask for extra manpower and equipment to systematically flush the city’s water pipes.
Devlin said he could not put a timetable on how long the city’s water could be discolored, but pending board approval, it may take up to a month to hire an extra foreman and receive equipment to step up flushing attempts.
Lynn Spruill, city chief administrative officer, said City Hall has not received an overwhelming number of complaints, but the ones it has received have been from throughout the city. Even City Hall itself has experienced the discolored water, she said.
“Everyone is very understanding when we explain what the issue is,” she said.
Numerous city officials, including Mayor Parker Wiseman and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey, said they have experienced the discolored water personally since the government-instituted change in chlorine levels.
“We will have items on the Tuesday (board of aldermen) agenda relating to mitigating the colored water,” Wiseman said.
Corey said he will ask city and water officials if a notice can be provided in the future to warn residents of potential water discoloration. The notices, he said, would be modeled after boil water notices. He said he got the idea after a constituent asked him if similar measures could be taken. The constituent emailed him and mentioned he had a load of laundry ruined by the discoloration.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said he’s received approximately half of a dozen reports from residents of his ward about the discolored water.
“I don’t know if we really expected the discoloration,” he said, “but we expected the chemical increase because increase because of the mandate.”
An advanced warning, Dumas said, could be a feasible way to alert the community to potential water changes which could change water color.
Ward 6 Aldermen Roy A. Perkins said he has forwarded complaints he has received to the proper city officials.
“If there’s anything we can do on our end to alleviate the situation, we have a staff that is competent, able and capable to perform the necessary and proper work,” he said.