Questions arise about Marion County drinking water - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Questions arise about Marion County drinking water

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Residents in Marion County say there's something wrong when they turn on their faucets.

The tap water has turned various shades of yellow or brown and they don't know whether it's safe to drink. 

Brooke Shortte is one of many people living just outside of Buena Vista who are experiencing the same thing: water that won't clear up no matter how long it's left running.

 "It doesn't seem safe for my kids to drink it or to even bathe in it."

She's now going to the length of buying all of her drinking water from the store.

"It leaves rings around the tub. My kids won't drink it. My son tells me that it's nasty. Most days it's got a dark golden color, and other days it has an off-brown color," said Shortte.

But beyond just staining the tub, residents say it's changing the color of their clothes.

"All of my husband's white shirts are actually light brown now," added Shortte.

Other residents like Melissa Smith have posted photos of the tap water on Facebook. Seen side-by-side with filtered water, the color is considerably different.

Marion County manager Frank Ethridge is aware of the problem, but he said there is nothing to fear.

"Other than discoloration and looking bad, there's nothing wrong with the water."

He said the issue is caused by iron which is naturally present in the water that gets pumped from the ground. According to him, it's safe for everyone to drink, even women who are pregnant.

"Iron is not part of the criteria that EPD requires us to test on a monthly basis.  It's not deemed a health hazard.  And at the levels we're measuring, it's not within the health range," said Etheridge.

So if iron has always been in the water, why has the color only changed in the last few weeks?

Etheridge said there's two reasons for that. The county recently fixed broken pipes which now send the water flowing over greater distances. That gives the iron more time to settle and separate to the point where it's visible.

Around the same time, the county adjusted the water's pH to give it a more neutral level of acidity, but that change is also causing the iron to dissolve more quickly.

"In the next two weeks or so, we won't have the discoloration problem," said Etheridge.

County officials said they're going to treat the water with phosphates and that will get everything back to normal.

The county manager also has a piece of advice for anyone who is washing clothes between now and when they fix the problem. If you're trying to get a rust stain out of white clothes, don't use bleach, because it makes the problem worse. There are several products you can buy that will help specifically with rust stains.

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