Discolored water frustrating community

By Anthony Antoine | aantoine@wcia.com

Published 06/29 2014 07:50PM

Updated 06/30 2014 10:42AM

HOOPESTON -- People are frustrated with their water and the city. The city is upgrading the water filtration system, but it's causing the water to be discolored. The town isn't under a boil order and city officials say it's okay to drink, but homeowners aren't taking any chances.

"You wake up in the morning and you open up the toilet and wonder if somebody hasn't flushed," said resident, Jim Bailey.

The water at Bailey's house looks okay right now, but depending on the day and time it can look discolored.

"We got water softener and we buy the extra Iron Out or the rust pellets to try to cure it as much as we can, but it comes and goes," Bailey explained.

The city got a loan from the government to pay for the general maintenance on the water tower.

"We found out when we got into the process that the filters needed to be examined and looked at more seriously," said City Council Member Bill McElhaney.

The filtration system is more than 35 years old.

"Gradually, our iron content is getting higher and higher," said Stephen Baker, head of the Hoopeston Water and Sewer Department. "That's telling me that the filters aren't doing their job."

The EPA says the amount of iron in drinking water should be .3 milligrams per liter of water (mg/L). The last couple of years in Hoopeston it's been .5 mg/L. Baker says the upgrades are long overdue.

"Right now we're running out of two filters instead of three. We've got a total of three filters," Baker explained. "One of them is being refurbished right now and we're having a hard time keeping the iron out."

Baker says that's what is causing the disocoloration and the odor in the water.

"Since we have one filter out of service we're only working with two filters," said Baker. "The iron content is above a 1.0."

Baker says there are no health risks associated with the iron levels. They also built a new water tank so they can clean the old one. This is all part of a nearly  $3 million overhaul.

"We're not just doing this to wreak havoc on the community, but we're trying to make the water system better," McElhaney said.

For months, Bailey has turned on the faucet to see discolored water. It can make it tough to see the city's long term plan.

"For fifty-something dollars a month for a water bill, I think on days you get rusty water, you ought to get a credit," Bailey said.

The city takes monthly samples of the water and say the samples are satisfactory. They expect to get things back to normal by the end of the year.

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