Preston PSD 1 says water is discolored but safe

ARTHURDALE – Manganese in the water at Public Service District 1 is discoloring the water, but there is no danger to customers, the district says.

In a news release Wednesday, the district said it is aware of concerns about the color of the water, “but also assure you that the water quality, which is constantly being monitored by both the PSD and all other necessary authorities, is constantly being improved through the efforts of various PSD personnel.”

“Please be assured that all efforts are being taken to remedy the issue as quickly and as safely to our customers as possible,” the district said.

Mike Adams, who serves on the board of PSD 1, and Lewis Baker, Source Water Protection Specialist for the West Virginia Rural Water Association, said manganese  is a naturally occurring mineral.

The U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency (EPA) has established National Primary Drinking Water Regulations that set mandatory water quality standards for drinking water contaminants.  In addition, the EPA has established regulations that set non-mandatory quality standards for 15 contaminants.

One of these is manganese. According to the EPA,  water containing manganese is, “black to brown in color; black staining; bitter metallic taste.”  Drinking water standards are set for 0.05 ppm for manganese.

The secondary standards were set to give public water systems some guidance on removing these chemicals to levels that are below what people will find noticeable.

A spokeswoman for the State Department of Health and Human Resources said that four samples  taken throughout the distribution system on Sept. 13, with results of 0.032 mg/l, 0.051 mg/l, 0.042 mg/l and 0.009 mg/l.  Only the 0.051 result was above the secondary Maximum Contaminate Level, she said.

Adams said about three months ago the water was pink or purple.  He said this was due to the addition of chemicals to remove the manganese.

“We had the water tested by the health department. They said it was safe but  not aesthetically pleasing,” he said.

In its release, PSD 1 noted, “sometimes the alternative source cooperates with our water processing and production, sometimes it does not … As a result of attempting to improve its condition with the use of aerators, such activity, the season and the environment, have caused disruption of the settlement.”

Adams said PSD 1 is currently pumping water from an impoundment  beside West Preston school in Arthurdale.  He said the water is drawn from the shallow edge.

“We have a project going on where we are aerating the water.  It stirs water from the bottom to the top,” Adams said.

The district’s normal water source, on WVU’s J.W. Ruby Research Farm in Reedsville, is unavailable while an $8 million dam rehabilitation project is completed. The dam was built in 1969.

The impoundment had silted in, so that the district was limited to drawing water from a small pool. The work will provide the growing district with more water and make the dam  safer for those downstream.

Baker said manganese settles  in mud at the bottom of ponds. Some dissolves back into the water. When the seasons change, he said, the bottom water comes to the top, raising the  manganese levels.

Baker said black manganese oxide might coat water pipes.  “If the color is black it’s manganese oxide,” he said. “Run cold water to flush your pipes. Don’t run hot water. If you do it will settle in your water heater and take longer to clean up.”

He said the other colors, pink and purple could be caused because by the use of potassium permanganate.  Potassium permanganate oxidizes iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide in particles.  If   too much is used the water changes to pink or purple.

He said he believes PSD-1’s manganese problem is a temporary one but might require it to flush its pipes.

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