SUMTER, SC (WIS) - Doug Jones who lives in Morris Way Drive said he moved to Sumter more than 30 years ago. For now, he has no plans to leave.
"I was looking for something in the South where it was warm with sort of a small town feel," Jones explained.
But like many others, Jones agrees there is one thing they would change about the quality of life in Sumter - the quality of water coming into their homes.
"We started getting red water and it was a tremendous amount of red water. It was literally red water," Jones said. "It's just become the norm because of the uncertainty of it, you don't know if you can wash clothes on a certain day. It's inconvenient but because of the fact that it doesn't ever seem to end and, to the best of my knowledge, it has not really been addressed until the past recent months. You just sort of make allowances for it."
Just recently, many residents started taking matters into their own hands. Assistant City Manager of Public Works Al Harris says that it's always been this way because they pull their water from the ground.
The city has a groundwater system that pushes out water through nearly 650 miles of water lines across Sumter before reaching the homes of more than 23,000 people.
Harris says most of the residents have clear, drinkable water. But there are a couple dozen homeowners in Sumter who say they get brown water more often than they'd like.
Diana Menzing is one of those residents. She's lived in Sumter for nearly eight years.
"My granddaughter will go, 'Grandma, I am not washing my hair and taking a shower in this nasty brown water. I am telling you nasty, brown water.' This has gone on for almost the whole time we have lived here."
Residents say it's been like this for years but it wasn't until recently that many of them started to raise concerns.
"I think it has reached a tipping point," Jones said. "We have expanded quite a bit and I honestly believe they're not used to this and they are not getting the answers they want to get. When folks come in and they are from outside Sumter, they find the way of Sumter doing business mysterious sometimes."
Brianna Carter hasn't lived in Sumter long but recently started a Sumter Water Concerns Facebook page with more than 250 likes.
"Nobody has actually had the fight in them to stand up to the city and say something is going on, it's not right," Carter said.
WIS first investigated the water issues in December when dozens of residents started sending pictures and inviting us into their homes to see it firsthand.
More complaints poured in, the Mayor of Sumter addressed the issue on social media, and one homeowner said she had lead in her water at one point.
WIS had some water samples tested to learn just how much iron is actually in the water.
In January, water samples show the amount of iron 10 times higher than a limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's limit on iron levels in water is 0.3 mg. per liter. One sample taken from a home on Katydid Street shows iron levels at 3.9 mg. per liter.
There was no lead found in any samples we had tested. However, the water was over the EPA standards for iron, manganese, and turbidity in almost every category.
Ashley Amick with Access Analytical said iron isn't considered dangerous to your health but it presents other problems.
"It's going to have a color of tea or rust to it," Amick said. "It will stain clothes and cause problems with plumbing and appliances such as your washing machine."
Other than residents like Jones can't have iron in their water because of health conditions.
"I have a genetic condition called hereditary hemochromatosis. When iron comes in my body unlike most people it's store in my body, it's stored in my liver, it's stored in my kidneys," Jones explained. "Unfortunately, it is a fatal condition so because of that, I go to the doctor who treats me."
It greatly impacts people's lives in other ways.
"What they told me to always run my washer first with a quick rinse before I start my laundry so that I could try to clear my water lines," Menzing said. "So I have to use that amount of time which is a half hour of time on my washer so it's my electricity, it's my water, and my time. I am holding up my time waiting to start my laundry, and then hope that your laundry comes out without having gold on it."
Where exactly are the issues at, how significant are the problems, Carter asked? We took those questions to the City of Sumter's Assistant City Manager Al Harris.