Il­le­gally tapped fire hy­drant caused dis­col­oration, county says no threat to health

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SYKESINDYNEWS

An il­le­gally tapped fire hy­drant has caused the wa­ter sup­ply in a Wal­dorf neigh­bor­hood to be brown and cloudy.

Karla Korne­gay, a res­i­dent in the North Pointe neigh­bor­hood in Wal­dorf, said she called the Charles County Util­i­ties De­part­ment last week com­plain­ing about brown­ish-yel­low wa­ter com­ing from her faucet. But over the week­end, she said, she did not hear back and had to find other wa­ter sources for the time be­ing.

Korne­gay said she had to “come out of her own pock­ets” to find clean wa­ter for her fam­ily to use.

“We don’t need an­other Flint, Michi­gan. Es­pe­cially not in my neigh­bor­hood,” Korne­gay said. “We’ve had to deal with this all week­end. I’ve had to go buy gal­lons of wa­ter and bot­tles to cook.”

County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robinson (D) said Korne­gay ap­proached him with the is­sue, which he looked into and or­dered Charles County’s De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works to in­ves­ti­gate over the week­end.

There were com­plaints from 14 res­i­dents in to­tal made to the county’s util­i­ties de­part­ment about dis­col­ored wa­ter in the neigh­bor­hood. Robinson said the wa­ter and sit­u­a­tion was “im­me­di­ately an­a­lyzed,” which de­ter­mined the sys­tem needed to be drained.

Ac­cord­ing to Crys­tal Hunt, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer and spokes­woman for Charles County Govern­ment, the de­part­ment looked into the is­sue on Fri­day evening and dis­cov­ered some­one had il­le­gally tapped into a fire hy­drant in the neigh­bor­hood. This ac­tion de­creased the wa­ter pres­sure in the pipe sys­tem and re­leased ex­tra iron into the sys­tem.

Sed­i­ments of iron rest at the bot­tom of pipes and, when the pres­sure falls, they mix into the wa­ter stream. Il­le­gally and in­cor­rectly con­nect­ing to a fire hy­drant changes the sys­tem pres­sure and will cause iron de­posits to mix in with the wa­ter.

But still, through­out the week­end, the wa­ter in the sys­tem re­mained brown. Korne­gay said she and her neigh­bors are still con­cerned that this has hap­pened and do not know if they can con­tinue to trust the sys­tem.

“I’m not re­ally will­ing to use the wa­ter, even right now,” Korne­gay said. “I know they’ve gone into it, but it’s still got some color. How do I know what they’re say­ing is true? Are they go­ing to con­tinue test­ing it?”

Robinson said he un­der­stands why some would have reser­va­tions about trust­ing the wa­ter sys­tem after some­thing like this, but the wa­ter was never “toxic,” and was not go­ing to bring harm to any cit­i­zen.

“This cer­tainly isn’t Flint where we have lead pipe­lines in the county. I can as­sure ev­ery­one, we don’t have that prob­lem,” Robinson said. “Ob­vi­ously, brown drink­ing wa­ter is not some­thing any­one wants to see. But the res­o­lu­tion is fairly easy and we’re still in the process of do­ing it.”

Hunt said the process of clean­ing out the wa­ter takes time. The process be­gan Fri­day and was still con­tin­u­ing through Tuesday. The county has to open one end of the wa­ter valve and close the other to fil­ter dis­col­ored wa­ter out.

“Some­times when they start the flush­ing, it can af­fect homes that weren’t ini­tially af­fected. But once the flush­ing is done, the wa­ter is clear again,” Hunt said. “It’s not toxic and not harm­ful.”

But Korne­gay said this is not the first time this has hap­pened in the neigh­bor­hood. It’s be­com­ing more and more of an is­sue, she said.

The county has an anti-brown wa­ter pro­gram, Hunt said, which is a flush­ing sched­ule the util­i­ties di­vi­sion fol­lows to rid the county’s major pipes of is­sues. Nor­mally, there will be warn­ings about flush­ing and oc­ca­sional brown wa­ter is­sues, but it’s typ­i­cally re­solved in a few days.

The county util­i­ties’ emer­gency line is open 24 hours and the county also offers dis­counts for wa­ter dis­col­oration, Hunt said. Korne­gay said she did re­ceive a dis­count from the county on her wa­ter bill after it was de­ter­mined her wa­ter was dis­col­ored.

Over­all, Hunt said, this is noth­ing to panic about.

“That’s what we want to em­pha­size. It’s not toxic, it’s not harm­ful. These are nat­u­ral iron de­posits that are al­ready in the pipe so they’re in the wa­ter they use day to day,” Hunt said. “When they get stirred up, they cause dis­col­oration. That’s all.”

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