“We’ve had reports of discolored water in the area of Oak Ridge and Mill Village,” Mayor Bill Hereford said.
Hereford said the discolored water is due to reverse flows in the water lines.
“Water, which has been flowing in one direction for many years, is now flowing in the opposite direction due to the addition of water from the Coosa Valley Water Supply District,” he said. “The discoloration is caused by a buildup over the years in the water lines, like a lining.”
George Cox, chief of the Ground Source Section for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, said ADEM officials have been in conversation with the water operator in Pell City.
“We received reports of water discoloration from both customers and the city,” he said. “The city had told us they were getting water from an additional source, so we knew it could be an issue.”
Cox said with reverse flows there is always a possibility of water discoloration.
“It can happen, but it doesn’t always,” he said.
Cox said Pell City water customers should follow the advice of onsite operators and ADEM is providing oversight of the situation.
Councilman Greg Gossett said the discoloration problems occurred in the older parts of town that have galvanized piping.
“Those pipes tend to have more buildup of particles, and the reverse flow turns the particles loose and causes discoloration,” he said. “We have been testing, and there is no contamination at this time.”
Gossett said the city is flushing the water lines from Dr. John Haynes Drive to U.S. 78 on the east side of U.S. 231 to 33rd Street.
“Flushing the system will clear the flow through the lines,” he said. “We are also having residents flush any discolored water through their bath tub.”
Gossett said residents should flush the hot and cold water separately and not at the same time.
“Flush it until the water runs clear,” he said. “Sometimes it takes 2-3 minutes and sometimes 10 minutes or longer.”
Gossett said the city has been flushing the lines periodically since it began receiving water from the Coosa Valley Water Supply District at the beginning of December.
“The discoloration is definitely not due to contamination, because at this time there is no contamination in the Coosa Valley Water Supply District system,” he said. “That’s the good thing — it isn’t contamination and can be flushed out of the system.”
The city issued a release advising residents not to use cloudy or discolored water for drinking or cooking. Discolored water should only be used for baths and showers. Customers should immediately report any cloudiness, discoloration or any other unusual condition of their water to the Pell City Water Department at 205-338-2244, 205-945-9240 or 205-941-0600. The city will provide bottled water at no charge to customers affected.
“Don’t drink or cook with it,” Gossett said. “Call the city and we will bring bottled drinking water to you.”
Hereford said the city delivered three pallets of bottled water to affected customers Thursday.
“I don’t have the number of homes and businesses affected, but my guess is we’ve probably had 100 or so calls so far,” he said.
Hereford said the city is accelerating the flushing of city lines and encourages affected residents to do the same.
“The residents are not going to have to pay for the cost of the excess water to flush the lines,” he said. “They will have a normal water bill.”
Hereford said Pell City residents, city employees and the Street and Water departments have responded well to the issue.
“I feel the people involved have been very understanding,” he said. “I really appreciate it. I’ve come to expect such a good response from Pell City people. That’s the way Pell City people are — they handle adversity well.”
Hereford said he is not sure how long the discoloration will last.
“I’m speculating in 2-3 weeks this will be behind us,” he said. “But there’s no way to tell. It could take less time or more time. My advice is: don’t drink discolored water, flush your system and don’t worry about your water bill.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.