The City of Charlestown has shared with us the following statement regarding recent concerns related to the quality of Charlestown’s water, plans for improvement, and related legal issues. A link to Charlestown’s most recent water quality report is also included.
On Monday and Tuesday, 8/13 – 8/14 Charlestown conducted a scheduled city-wide hydrant flushing between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. We flush the lines 2 to 4 times per year, or as needed. Flushing makes sure the hydrants are functioning properly and allows us to discharge discolored water from the lines in a controlled way in the hopes that less discolored water will make its way to water customers.
We use regular procedures to notify customers in advance of the flushing. We have advised our customers throughout the years that following the flushing of the lines there is an increased likelihood that they will experience some discolored water that will have resulted from the change in pressure within the pipes. We also remind customers that they should run their cold water (not hot water) until it becomes clear. We suggest customers avoid doing laundry in the day(s) immediately after the hydrant flushing, or at least to run their water until they are reasonably confident that the water is clear. Furthermore, we encourage customers who had to run cold water for a significant length of time to call or visit the Utility Billing Department at City Hall to request an adjustment on their water bill for the extra water used. Finally, the water department offers a detergent substance, at no cost to the customer, to use in their washing machine in the event that some articles of clothing became discolored from the water.
The discolored water is the result of manganese build up in the water lines. Charlestown has faced this issue for more than 60 years. Manganese is a naturally occurring element that is found in our well-field. Our water is tested regularly for safety and we publish a water report every year attesting to the safety of the water. Nonetheless, when a high concentration of manganese builds up in the lines it results in discoloration which is neither appealing to the eye nor desirable for consumption. We understand it is a problem. The city has launched efforts, over the years, to reduce the incidents of discolored water. Those efforts have, in fact, been successful in significantly lowering the frequency of such occurrences. Furthermore, we have had a plan on the table for two years for improvements that would go much further by reducing the amount of time water sits in one place before being accessed by an end user. During the time that the design of these improvements was being finalized, Indiana American Water approached the city about purchasing the water distribution system. They committed to spending 7.2 million dollars in the first several years to implement the improvements we had been planning. In fact, the President of Indiana American pledged to do whatever it takes to improve the quality of Charlestown water in a fraction of the time that the city would be able to do it on its own. The process of selling the water distribution system began. However, some people opposed the sale and launched an effort to stop it. This put the process on hold and consequently delayed the start of the improvements Indiana American was poised to begin. Despite the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approving the sale, the opposition group filed an appeal of that decision that further pushed off the completion of the sale. Ultimately, this means that efforts for long-term solutions to our discolored water problem have been put off even longer, sometimes by the very people who consistently complain about the discolored water.
We appreciate the concern of our water customers. Indeed, most city employees are water customers and occasionally experience the discoloration, too. We are ready for the proposed improvements to begin and look forward to the completion of the water sale so that can happen.