“We’ve been very unhappy,” said Billy Drummonds, who lives in the Oak Ridge community. “You can’t cook with it or drink it.”
Residents in the Oak Ridge and Mill Village communities have reported issues with discolored and clouded water since December.
City officials said the discolored water is caused by a reverse flow of water in the city’s water system, which started after the city began accepting water from the Coosa Valley Water Supply District in early December.
“They said to flush the system,” Drummonds said. “We have flushed these lines. A plumbing company came and spent three hours flushing everything out. Four hours after that, it was back. We let the outside hoses run for hours and then run the inside (faucets) for hours.”
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.
“When we shower, it causes our skin to itch,” said Carolyn Drummonds, Billy’s wife. “It gave Billy a rash and bumps from it.”
Carolyn Drummonds said city officials have delivered water and promised to fix the problem.
“I spoke with David Clausen with SouthWest Water Company and gave him a container of water Thursday,” she said. “He said it would be Monday before they knew the test results.”
Carolyn Drummonds said it is their health she is concerned about.
“It’s got me to the crying point,” she said. “What is this going to lead up to? Why did they take us off well water?”
Billy Drummonds said the couple, who have lived in Pell City all their lives, built their house in 1970.
“The house has galvanized pipe in it,” he said. “When you change the direction of the water flow, it takes off the sludge from the walls of the pipes. People with ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) told me even if they hadn’t reversed the water flow, the softer water would take off the sides of the pipes.”
Carolyn Drummonds said the problem is so bad, the couple has discussed moving.
“It’s to the point we are thinking of moving and getting away,” she said. “I’m to the point I just don’t know what to do. We’ve ruined our clothes—I washed a load of white clothes and it’s ruined them. We have had to eat out because we have to cook using bottled water. Plus, if we wash the dishes we would be washing them in contaminated water.”
Brenda Martin, who also lives in the Oak Ridge community, said she first noticed discolored water and reported it prior to Christmas.
“The sample I gave to the water department was very discolored with a lot of sediment,” she said. “They were going to test it, but they haven’t gotten back to me yet.”
Martin said Clausen has been very helpful.
“He has gone above and beyond, calling and making trips out here,” she said. “But it’s been an inconvenience. I’ve been taking laundry to relatives to do because I’ve already ruined clothes.”
Martin said Mayor Bill Hereford personally came out to the neighborhood, knocking on doors and speaking with residents.
“I called City Hall for more water, and they said they were out and told me it was discolored, but safe to drink,” she said. “We called the mayor and he sent us more water.”
Martin said the only way they can use any of the water is to flush the lines.
“I want clean water,” Donny Martin said. “They’re telling us it’s safe to drink. If it’s safe—they can come here and I’ll fix them a glass to drink. They are still charging me a bill for dirty water. Even if they charge me the same amount as last month or an average, I’m paying for water I can’t use. I do not expect to pay for water I didn’t drink.”
Clausen said he expects to get the results from the water tests sometime next week.
“The water sample results will be given to the mayor and ADEM,” he said. “I can’t comment further on the situation.”
Robert Bunt said the whole Oak Ridge area has discolored water problems.
“We’ve been trying to keep it out of the hot water tank, and I told my wife not to wash clothes in it so it wouldn’t ruin them,” he said. “I’ve been running the water to flush it and it will clear up after a while.”
Bunt said his wife, who is legally blind, also has a tracheotomy.
“I can’t clean the trache in her throat in muddy water,” he said. “I have to use bottled water for that.”
Oak Ridge resident Tommy Robinson said he has been running the hose out behind his house continually since Tuesday.
“If I turn it off, I’ll have dirty water the next morning,” he said. “They are flushing the fire hydrant at the elementary school (Iola Roberts Elementary School), and as long as that hydrant is running I’ll run my hose.”
Robinson said city workers had not been flushing the fire hydrant near 26th Street and 11th Avenue North.
“I don’t understand why they aren’t running that fire hydrant to flush out the lines up here,” he said.
Robinson said he first noticed the problem around Dec. 19 or 20.
“I talked with the city about it and they sent two guys out here who flushed the lines,” he said. “They said they took water samples and that it was safe to drink. Then the mayor comes back and says not to drink it.”
Robinson said they are scared to wash clothes in the dingy water.
“A neighbor got a white sweater for Christmas and washed it and it has an orange tint,” he said. “The biggest inconvenience is that you feel you are brushing your teeth with dirty water, and having to take your clothes somewhere else to wash. My wife bought plastic plates and utensils because we don’t want to wash dishes in that water.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.