Are you experiencing brown water this summer of 17?
We are receiving complaints from a growing number of customers that they have been experiencing either brown water for the first time or seeing an increase in brown water from previous years. We are very much aware of the problem and are doing everything we can to alleviate the problem, but our options are limited. The brown water is a result of an abundance of iron in the water taken from one of the 4 wells that we draw from. We only draw from that well starting in late May to early September when demand almost doubles. The Oregon Health Authority does not consider iron a health risk until it reaches 3 PPM. The iron the well produces is 2.1 PPM but once its blended into the system its reduced to less than 1 PPM. While the brown water does not represent a health risk we fully understand and appreciate that it is a major customer service issue for you. There are two possible solutions. One is to filter the iron out of the water. The second is to shut down the iron well and drill a new well. Filtering is very expensive (and creates a toxic byproduct) and since the well is only needed for 3-3 1/2 months its not economically feasible. The real solution is a new well. 50% of the wells drilled in the valley have iron. We have drilled 9 wells since 1968. 5 of those had iron above 3 PPM. To drill a municipal well it has to have a 100 ft radius with no development (improved lots, septic systems, roads, etc.) near it or be in a wetlands. It has to be over 1/4 of a mile from the Salmon or Sandy rivers or any of its tributaries. Look at a map and there aren't many sites that qualify. We have a plan to bring a new well online. The plan called for the new well to be in place by 2020. The increase in complaints is telling us we need to find a way to move that date up.
The increase in brown water this summer is the result of two underlining factors. 1. a buildup of iron after years of pumping from the iron rich well and 2. much higher than normal usage due to higher than normal temperatures and no rain. To remove the buildup mentioned in #1 we need to be much more aggressive with our winter system flushing. This is planned, however as most people know the flushing itself creates brown water. Prior to this summer water usage was down 30% in 2016. The huge increase this summer is causing the water in the system to move much faster and this is stirring up iron sediments. Flushing will help alleviate this for next summer. The iron well will be shut down as soon demand drops. This is usually the day after school starts.