By Carolyn Roy
There may be ugly brown water coming out of your pipes but it’s safe to drink. That’s according to a presentation at City Council meeting Monday evening. During the last two City Council meetings, Mayor Lee Posey has commented several times on how bad the City’s water is and how embarrassed he was about the supply to City residents and some 1,900 in Water District No. 1.
That brown water can be likened to “spring cleaning” of the City’s water distribution system as explained by a consultant at the Monday meeting. Roy Bellemin is a partner and consultant for Thornton, Musio and Bellemin of Zachary, the company conducting the process. Bellemin said it began last week by stirring up the stored water and flushing the hydrants. It should take two months to complete the flushing and cleansing and rid the system of the brown and yellow water. The process empties the transition water and then keeps fire hydrants open until clean water appears.
Afterward, there will be periodic maintenance to maintain the condition of the water. Part of the problem is a change in disinfectant which he likened to changing to a new medication. Bellimin said the brown water is worse in some areas than others and it will eventually affect every section of the City and Water District I. The brown water is “an indication of progress.” A whole water home filter could be somewhat effective but will not solve the problem. Residents may notice water running in ditches and streets as a result of “blowing” the lines. The company will know when the process is complete based on water tests. The City will follow up with a flushing program, although not to this degree. “Our issue is the distribution system. The problem is the regulations that cause us to manage the whole distribution system, not just the storage,” Bellemin. “The town has a lot of storage. If it sits in the tank, it deteriorates.”
Bellemin said many areas are experiencing similar problems because of the new regulations. Bellemin gave assurance that City water is safe to drink and said he drinks it. Every quarter, there are 45 samples taken from sites throughout the distribution area to assure it is safe to drink. Posey said that the water is being tested every two hours before leaving the distribution plant. And while the color is not desirable, he said there have been no contaminants found in the last two years. Bellemin said there is no need to boil the water unless the pressure drops but that has not happened. “But for peace of mind, you can boil it.” About 18 months ago, Posey said the City began receiving complaints and at first thought the brown water problem was the result of aging lines and frequent maintenance. However, as it worsened, he realized it was a bigger problem. “That’s when we found it was the water line maintenance.” Posey said there are other projects underway to improve the water distribution system such as the installation of new intake structures in Sibley Lake, old water line replacement and a new distribution line to East Natchitoches at the Keyser Street Bridge. The City has already spent $800,000 on those improvements. The City is also working on problem areas such those on McCullen Drive and those at the end of distribution lines. “This won’t happen over night but we’ll stay the course and continue the battle,” Posey said about the process to flush out water pipes.