CALL 6: Greentown homeowners concerned about brown water

Lab says 'high levels' of iron found
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 13:55:29-04

GREENTOWN, Ind. -- Some people who live Greentown are concerned about the safety of their drinking water after they experienced brown water coming out of their faucets.

Greentown has a population of approximately 2,400 and is located in eastern Howard County.

“It’s not good,” said Heather Jones, a mother of four children who has lived in Greentown for four years. “You can’t drink the water, the kids can’t drink the water, it’s completely brown.  You can’t wash your clothes, because I’ve ruined lots of laundry.”

After unsafe levels of lead were found in the Eastern Howard School Corporation in 2016, Jones said she has a right to be worried.

READ | Eastern Howard School Corporation finds unsafe levels of lead in school water | Blood tests begin in Howard County schools

“My concern is, what’s in the water?” said Jones.  “Is there lead in the water or are there things that are going to harm children?”

Jones said she questioned the Greentown Water Utility, which assured her the water is safe.

She paid to have Criterion Water Labs, a state certified testing facility, test her water.

The results show her water is high in iron, which is considered a “secondary contaminant,” meaning the federal EPA can issue recommendations regarding iron levels, but they can’t force utilities to comply.

The national recommended level for iron is .3 mg/L. Jones water in Greentown tested 1.98 mg/L.

“I can tell you that we have measured very high levels of iron in the city water,” said Ann Ihms, owner of Criterion Water Labs. “Hopefully they can all figure out if there is pipe degradation and why.”

Flint whistleblower and water quality activist Melissa Mays told Call 6 Investigates she is concerned by Greentown’s brown water and high iron levels, because those problems typically point to a corrosion issue within the water system which can lead to other contaminants getting into the water supply.

“Drinking water with too much iron can cause gastrointestinal problems, and it can also impact oxygen levels, so some people may have dizzy spells,” said Mays.

Greentown water utility crews were out last week and again Thursday flushing water out of the hydrants.

“The water utility periodically flushes the mains to insure proper hydrant operation as well as to clear sediment from the lines,” said Greentown Council President Scott Deyoe. “Customers are notified via their utility statement, the Greentown website, Greentown Grapevine and Kokomo Tribune when main flushing will take place and that the water is safe for use.”

The flushing will continue through June 30, weather permitting.

Deyoe said the water is safe and only one resident has complained about brown water.

“The town is starting a water project to address the overall needs of the town water utility,” said Deyoe. “This includes three new wells, water main improvements and water treatment updates.  All of these actions have been reviewed by IDEM (the Indiana Department of Environmental Management) and will assist the town in maintaining quality drinking water.”

IDEM spokesperson Barry Sneed said Greentown treats its water with phosphate.

“The chemical coats the lines thus preventing lead to leach into the water,” said Sneed. “Brown water is not because of lead but because of iron that builds up on the lines.”

Heather Jones is pushing the town and IDEM to do new tests for lead.

The state’s drinking water website shows the most recent results are from summer of 2016.

Jones is also planning to pay Criterion to do lead testing on her water, which will cost $50.

“I pay $300 to $400 a month for water I can barely use,” said Jones. Her $300 water bill includes water, sewage, trash and storm water.

Until she can get some clear answers, Jones says her family will not drink the water and will bathe in it only when it’s running clear.

“We go through a lot of bottled water,” said Jones.

Call 6 Investigates contacted the Howard County Health Department on Thursday but did not hear back.

It’s not yet clear if Greentown or IDEM plan to do any new tests for contaminants, such as copper, iron and lead.

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