SUMTER, SC (WIS) - Why aren't residents who live in the City of Sumter guaranteed clean water?
Months after WIS first reported on this issue, residents are still looking for an explanation after they say it's been years of brown and cloudy water.
In January, WIS had water samples tested. In one sample the amount of iron was 13 times over limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Health Experts say that Iron isn't considered dangerous to consume but the EPA puts a limit on the amount as an aesthetics issue.
If you don't control the amount of iron, you will have brown colored water, and it will have a metallic taste. That's what is coming out of the faucet, and into at hundreds of homes around Sumter.
Assistant City Manager of Public Works, Al Harris, says this is nothing new and the problem used to be chronic. "It's just an issue when you are dealing with ground water, you are dealing with iron and we work to deal with them as quickly as possible" Harris
The city says in December they received 218 complaints about water quality. In January that number was around 72.
"I had an issue the first of the week two or three calls that came from an area that I normally don't get calls so we looked into it immediately and found out another company had broken a water main, got it cleared up and the problem pretty much went away," said Harris.
Harris also added that they get water main breaks every day and issue boil water advisories if they deem necessary. Residents say they've never seen a boil water advisory. The City of Sumter's website shows the last one was issued in October 2015.
Homeowners say they never know when the discolored water coming, and it causes major headaches. Is it normal they don't know what to expect? Sometimes it's clear, sometimes it's not?
"We sometimes don't know what to expect. There again, many variables involved. Sometimes it's with the system. There are some areas that seem to have more red water than others and what makes it more amazing is sometimes, it's hard to get a handle on why." Harris explained.
Diana Menzing has lived in Sumter for over seven years.
"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."
Working with public works, and as the assistant city manager, what would you say to the people who come home to take a bath in brown water or wash their laundry and pull out brown clothes?
"Well because it used to be such a bad problem, we talk about it all of the time. There are products you can use. Number one, we used to keep it and hand it out, the stores sell it, now that's not the solution to the problem but that's something that can help you," Harris answered.
Many residents already buy the product in bulk. It's called Iron Out.
Another common sight in Sumter that goes hand and hand with the brown water is hydrants opened. It's called flushing the water mains, the city says it is required.
Is there any plan in place other than aggressive flushing?
"Well to fix it, you're saying to fix it so that you never see it no more? It's not going to happen. We are dealing with ground water; you have iron in groundwater. Every system that deals with ground water will have iron" Harris answered.
Those who experience brown water say that the flushing only provides temporary relief and that the water is quick to turn again.
A resident who wants to remain anonymous said this picture was taken exactly one week ago on Pinewood Road. According to the city, signs of brown water and hydrants flooding neighborhoods might not ever go away permanently.
The City says they work on these issues 24/7 so if you do experience brown water, they ask you to call their hotline and someone will come investigate the problem (803)-436-2558.