Discolored water raises concerns of Fortville residents


Photo of the construction of the new water treatment plant that took place this summer.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

FORTVILLE — Residents of Fortville have seen discolored water for the past few weeks, and their concerns were discussed at the Nov. 20 town council meeting.

The Town of Fortville’s Water Treatment Department said in a post on the town’s website approximately two weeks ago that they apologize for the discoloring of the water and while not desirable, the water is still safe.

However, at the Fortville town council meeting, Becky Davis had mentioned during councilor comments that she has received many comments on the water being discolored.

The post explained that the water treatment process typically allows for detention time so that any iron/rust can settle out before being filtered. However, increased demand in the warmer months over the last couple of years has shortened detention time, which can cause pockets of discolored water.

Town manager Joe Renner provided an update that while the new treatment plant is up and running, they are still working on a third well to get tied back in, and that the more they work with older pipes, it can jostle some rust within the pipe. The original system was built in 1913 — 110 years ago.

The post later said that hydrant flushing last year was able to mitigate much of what was seen. By doing hydrant flushing, it helps ensure water quality and helps avoid random bouts of rusty water if there is a high demand, which can be caused by a major firefighting effort or water main break.

Town council member Fred Fritz later shared with the Daily Reporter that replacing water pipes on the northside of Broadway Street during the ongoing construction can also cause the discoloration.

“It’s nothing from the outside that’s being introduced to the water system,” said Renner at the meeting, explaining that the discoloration is from settlement in pipes and has nothing to do with the new water treatment plant.

Because of the construction of the new water treatment plant and a higher water demand, hydrant flushing has been temporarily postponed and, with the colder weather approaching, it may be postponed again until the spring.

“It takes several weeks to flush all the hydrants in our system, and freezing temperatures can slow the process as well as greatly increase cost and risk,” the post said.

David Thomspon, Fortville Water Works Water and Wastewater Treatment Superintendent, said in an email that they “hope to fit in hydrant flushing before the weather turns too cold.”

Renner said at the meeting that once all the hydrants are flushed the water should run clear.

One resident in Village Apartments that has been experiencing the discoloration for weeks is Jan Van Pelt, and she said that she has been buying drinking water and traveling to do her laundry elsewhere. While she understands why this is happening, she believes that there should be “some kind of adjust on our bills” for the extra expenses.

Kimber Chapman, owner and stylist at Tone Salon, said they also had to endure some extra expenses during the process of installing the new water treatment plant, such as replacing their hot water heater and valves for their shampoo bowls in July because a plumber said there was too much sediment built up. Chapman said that now the sediment build is less, but the discolored water is still showing up despite them doing their own filtration.

“The iron that we’ve been told that is coming up with it is effecting our equipment and that’s our biggest concern right now as a business,” Chapman said.

Libby Leonard is a resident from Helmcrest, and she said that she, along with other residents she spoke with, were not made aware of their water being shut off for a day earlier this week. When she did regain access to the water, it caused her white sheets to be stained yellow.

“They say it’s safe but I’ve not seen any reports and I’d like to know for sure what’s in the water before I let my kids drink it or bathe in it,” Leonard said.

Thompson explained in an email that the water treatment plant tests the water every day for chlorine, iron, fluoride, pH and hardness as well as submits several samples to the Indiana State Board of Health each week for bacteriological testing. As employees and consumers, Thompson said they are working diligently to restore the quality of the water.

“The water is safe, but I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to drink it when it’s like that. We have put out several notices suggesting our customers that experience discolored water, flush their lines until the water clears up,” said Thompson in an email.

Renner also said at the meeting that if water is stirred in the main line and won’t run clear, wait a few hours and then try again to allow the pockets of particles to settle.

At the meeting on Nov. 20, there was one community member who expressed their concern on how long the discolored water will last and also how the town would be notified of the process and how long it would take.

She also asked that if the discolored water has to do with “tweaks” following the completion of the new water treatment plant and whether that was expected or a defect.

Renner said that it is expected when combining a new water treatment with older piping and that the discoloring doesn’t affect the whole town when a main water line needs to be fixed — just that specific area.

Town council president Toyna Davis also helped explain that the water that comes out of the new water treatment plant is clear.

“What you’re seeing here now is causing from what is in the pipe, not what is coming out of the plant,” Davis said at the meeting. “The water coming out of the plant is clean and it gets tested on a regular basis, so that’s what makes it hard to understand for people is why theirs is brown and somebody’s isn’t.

“All we ask is that the community continues to be patient as we come to the end of our new plant construction,” said Davis in an email. “The water is safe. Although it might not be desirable to drink because of the discoloration, it is usable for all purposes. This new plant is something the town has needed for more than 10 years. Fortville’s water is and has always been one of the best and least expensive water in the state.”