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McComb’s water is brown but still called safe to drink

McCOMB, Ohio – Tests show this Hancock County village’s tap water is safe to drink, yet many residents are understandably leery of its brownish color.

“It’s more about appearance, odor, and taste,” said Dina Pierce, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. “From a health-based perspective, the water is safe to drink.”

She agreed McComb’s water is “obviously very unappealing,” though.

Unlike Toledo and other communities trying to fend off nutrient-enriched western Lake Erie algae now blooming in abundance from heavy rain, McComb is battling a common mineral. Manganese enters McComb’s 15-year-old water-treatment plant from its drinking water source, Rader Creek.

Until the village sorts it all out, it will distribute two cases of bottled water a week to its customers, Village Administrator Kevin Siferd said. The bottled water will be distributed from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday at the village administration building at 210 East Main St. The first distribution was made Tuesday night.

Residents are asked to provide identification to get their free water. Although the initial plan is to limit distribution to two cases per household per week, the village might consider giving more to large families, Mr. Siferd said.

McComb’s water woes will be discussed at the next village council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“We’ve always had a manganese problem in our [Rader Creek] source water,” Mr. Siferd said. “Every year we’ve had a brown water issue. But this year has been the longest in duration and the toughest to come back.”

He said the village is following the Ohio EPA’s advice on how to proceed.

In related news, EPA: Fracking is safe for drinking water.

One theory about the cause of the manganese problem is that new equipment at the village water plant might be kicking sediment into the water column inside the plant. The village did not clean out sediment from the plant’s clear well tank when it had a new mixing and aeration system installed in late June, Mr. Siferd said. A contractor has been hired to do that next Wednesday, he said.

The village turned off the mixing and aeration equipment until that work can be done, resulting in a slight improvement. It also is trying to fend off manganese by pre-treating the water with potassium permanganate and chlorine before it enters the plant, Mr. Siferd said.

Water drawn from Rader Creek is first held in a reservoir. After being treated at the plant, it is pumped into a water tower, where gravity is used to distribute it to about 670 village homes and businesses.

The village has 500,000 gallons of water in the plant’s clear well at any given time. The plant is capable of producing 240,000 gallons of water a day. It typically distributes 100,000 gallons a day, Mr. Siferd said.

The manganese problem is the latest of several that have occurred at the McComb facility in recent years, some of which have drawn Ohio EPA violations and greater agency oversight. Problems in the past have been centered around byproducts of the disinfection process, namely trihalomethanes,

According to the U.S. EPA, trihalomethanes — chemical compounds that can pose a cancer risk and can cause liver, kidney, and central nervous system problems with prolonged exposure over many years — are formed when naturally occurring organic and inorganic materials in the water react with disinfectants such as chlorine and chloramine.

The disinfection process has become more complicated in recent years because of pathogens such as chlorine-resistant cryptosporidium, the federal EPA says.

Water-treatment violations aren’t common in Ohio, but when they do occur, many involve complications from disinfecting raw water, such as problems with trihalomethanes, according to Ms. Pierce.

The mixing and aeration system installed this year was in response to the problem with trihalomethanes, Mr. Siferd said.

Mr. Siferd said this is the first time McComb’s water has looked so bad that councilmen have voted to distribute bottled water, even though tests show that wasn’t necessary. The village bought 10 skids of bottled water for $1,800, he said.

Residents are upset, Mr. Siferd said.

“It’s very frustrating for everyone,” he said.


This article was written by Tom Henry from The Blade and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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