Lorain, OH Residents Battle 6-Year Long Brown Water Issue

The residents of Lorain, OH have been facing the issue of brown water running out their faucets for more than 6 years and dozens of fire hydrants outside their homes are not working. There are 3,200 hydrants in the city and currently 220 are what the city calls non-operational or low flow. The residents of this close knit community have been reassured however that in the event of a fire, fire fighters will have enough water to put it out despite not being able to use the hydrants.

Some residents use home filtration systems to treat the water but even after that they avoid drinking it. City of Lorain Director of Public Safety Robert Fowler said the problem lies below the ground and blames the old water lines for the low pressure to the fire hydrants. More than $75 million will be spent to replace the pipes, and the process is expected to be completed early next year. Officials say this should fix many of the water issues throughout the city.

What Is the Cause of My Brown Water Problem?

In order to choose the right water treatment system for your household, we first need to identify the problem we are dealing with. Contaminants can be health threatening at the MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) but are not considered to present a risk at the SMCL (Second Maximum Contaminant Level). Secondary standards have been set by the EPA to give public water systems some guidance on removing these chemicals to levels below what most people will find noticeable. The EPA also requested that households still dealing with brown water get in touch with a plumbing service that offers drain cleaning services such as Apollo Plumbing (https://www.apolloplumbing.net/services/drain-cleaning/), which can help to clean and purge their system, ridding it of any excess contaminants.

This step is to be taken should any of the following problems present themselves. There is a wide variety of problems related to secondary contaminants, which can be grouped into 3 categories:

  • aesthetic effects: undesirable tastes and odors
  • cosmetic effects: do not damage the body but are still undesirable
  • technical effects: damage to water equipment, reduced effectiveness of treatment for other contaminants

Aesthetic Effects

Taste, color and odor are useful indicators of water quality. Present methods to measure taste and odor are fairly subjective, and some odors are noticeable even when present in extremely small amounts, making it very expensive and often impossible to identify, much less remove the odor-producing contaminant. Color can indicate:

  • dissolved organic material
  • inadequate treatment
  • high disinfectant demand
  • the potential for the production of excess amounts of disinfectant by-products
  • inorganic contaminants (metals, for example)

Foaming can also occur, being caused by detergents and similar substances when water has been agitated or aerated. Foaming is commonly associated with an off-taste, described as oily, fishy or perfume-like.

  • Standards related to odor and taste: chloride, copper, foaming agents, iron, manganese, pH, sulfate, threshold odor number (TON), total dissolved solids, zinc.
  • Standards related to color: aluminum, color, copper, foaming agents, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids.

Cosmetic Effects

Silver and fluoride are 2 great examples of contaminants that cause cosmetic effects. Silver ingestion can cause skin discoloration, called argyria. Although it does not impair body function and has never been found to be caused by drinking water in the US, the EPA has set a standard for silver because it is used as an antibacterial agent in many home water treatment systems. Excess fluoride in drinking water has been a subject of debate for many years, being linked to a number of health effects in children.

Technical Effects

Corrosivity, staining related to corrosion, scaling and sedimentation are processes which have economic impacts, apart from affecting the aesthetic quality of water. Corrosion of iron and copper may stain household fixtures and can give the water a metallic taste, apart from a red or blue-green color. If corrosion occurs at the distribution system pipes, water flow will be reduced.

  • Standards related to corrosion and staining: chloride, copper, corrosivity, iron, manganese, pH, total dissolved solids, zinc.
  • Standards related to scale and sediments: iron, pH, total dissolved solids, aluminum.

Water Treatment Solutions for These Problems

If you notice issues with your water or if you are concerned that your water may be contaminated, the first step to take is to identify your local public water system. Next, contact your local public water system and inquire about your supplier’s monitoring for secondary contaminants. You may receive a public notice regarding drinking standards and a list of secondary contaminants, which are being monitored.

Lorain residents have 2 options when it comes to treating their water. If they want to treat all of the water in their house, then a backwashing filter should be used. The filter needs to contain mixed media, one media being an activated manganese ore and the other being a material called a filter A+, put together in the same tank. The backwashing filter is considered a POE (Point-Of-Entry) system and will provide nice, clear water throughout the house.

If the concern is just in drinking water areas, then they can put a 5-micron cartridge filter underneath the bathroom or kitchen sink. This is a POU (Point-Of-Use) system. The good news is that Lorain’s water can be filtered out, as the problem comes from old water pipes. Even if it is yucky-looking, typically there would not be any health issues with it.

At Dime Water Inc., our engineers are always prepared to help you choose the right water treatment technology to meet your needs. Contact us at 760.734.5787!


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