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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

EDITORIAL: Would you drink the water? Would you bathe in the water? Solution years away?

MITCHELL - FEBRUARY 26, 2023 - The customers of South Lawrence Water Corporation have been facing an ongoing problem over the last several years. The customers are faced with higher water bills, but the water is not fit to drink or bathe in, much less wash their clothing in.

Would you drink this?

Would you bath in this? Or wash or clothing in this?

The South Lawrence Water Corporation says this is safe to drink? I want to watch them take a drink of it, in front of me to reassure me that they are confident this is safe and tasty!

When it comes to receiving loans and grant money, the money that the government and organization says is free, the rates had to be increased for the South Lawrence Water Corporation to purchase property and install a water filtration plant on Dixie Highway.

Grants and loans come at a extra cost to the consumer of higher fees.

If there was ever an issue for our local government, state and federal government to get involved in an issue it is this one.

When millions of American Rescue Funds are proposed for broadband and other worthwhile causes, would not an issue of poor water quality be an issue your local officials would look at?

Would this not be an issue for an emergency declaration to free up state, local and federal resources to help speed up the process for a water filtration plant? Would this not be an issue to free up local, state, and federal monies to construct a water filtration plant?

When local governments can move train depots, and build bandstands, we can surely find local, state and federal agencies work to find suitable water for Lawrence County residents, we do not live in a third world country.

It time that our local, state and federal officials expedite this issue for the South Lawrence Water customers!

Would this be an excellent opportunity for Lawrence County officials use of American Rescue Funds towards this specific project.


MITCHELL - On Thursday night in a dark room with very little lighting due to a power outage the South Lawrence Water Corporation and manager; responded to the corporation's customers complaints on water quality and safety during their monthly meeting. Approximately a half dozen water customers attended the meeting; told the board they cannot drink their water despite high monthly water bills. The average residential customer using 2,000 gallons of water pays about $42 a month. The utility receives their water supply from several wells located along the White River but does not receive any water from the White River itself, according to board members.

" I have been at my residence for 14 years. I have had dirty water for the whole time I lived at my residence. It gets worse every year. My folks have lived next door since the early 90's And they too have dealt with it since then. I wished I kept receipts from what I have replaced in the brand-new home since 2003, this has cost me thousands of dollars," said Trent King. Elizabeth Dixon who resides on Dixie Highway asked the board several questions on why the water quality continues to get worse, and what kind of solutions the water company plans to address the issue. One man whose wife had a recent kidney transplant told the board that the doctors told him not to allow his wife to drink the water. Mickey Keith showed the board members the inside of his washing machine with the dirty water that he has been dealing with recently. Many of those who attended the meeting Thursday night say they cannot drink the water. Kevin Allen told the group that attended the meeting that the water is safe to drink. That there is a large amount of iron and manganese in the water. All the levels are in permissible limits. But these two things are what is leaving their water discolored. The utility tries flushing the water hydrants to immediately address some of the discoloration of the water. " How can this water be safe?" Dixon and other attendees asked.

Lawrence County Zephyr obtained a copy of the letter sent to the South Lawrence Water Corporation from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management dated January 31, 2023. Here is copy of the letter: IDEM INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT We Protect Hoosiers and Our environment. 100 N. Senate Avenue• Indianapolis, IN46204 (800) 451-6027 • (317) 232-8603 • Eric J. Holcomb Brian C. Rockensuess governor Commissioner January 31, 2023 RE: South Lawrence Utilities PWSID#: 5247007 Complaints Received January 2023 Mr. Kevin J. Allen South Lawrence Utilities 244 Carpenter Drive Mitchell, IN 47446 Dear Mr. Allen: The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has received numerous calls and emails regarding the water quality at South Lawrence Utilities over the past few days and a records review showed that several complaints have been m a d e in the last few years. The complaints mostly cover the discoloration of the water, sediment in the distribution system and concerns with the water quality and financial impact it has on complainants' household appliances and laundry. We understand that your utility has also received numerous calls, and emails over the years and have been responsive with flushing to address customers' complaints. However, water quality issues and complaints have continued. Indiana Code (IC) 13-18-16-6 states in relevant part that all public water systems shall be continuously operated and maintained so that water is safe in quality, clean and adequate in quantity, and chemically satisfactory for ordinary domestic consumption. Due to the nature of the complaints and documentation reviewed of the distribution system water quality, IDEM believes that there are issues which do not meet the statutory requirements and need to be addressed. On January 27, 2023, representatives of the Drinking Water Branch at IDEM reached out to your utility to address the recent complaints. While you are trying to address the immediate issues, more is needed to be done regarding the long-term solution. We understand your utility has five (5) wells on record, where only three (3) are consistently operated (wells #3, #4 and #5). We also show that the water is subject to iron and manganese sequestration by phosphate and gaseous chlorination prior to entering the distribution system. Your system is also comprised of six (6) storage tanks ranging in size from 90,000 to 500,000 gallons in capacity with total storage capacity of 1.64 MG, an interconnection for emergencies with Mitchell Water Department 5247003) and a booster station at Bryantsville Road rated at 1300 p m . There are 2,525 service connection for a total population of 6,313. South Lawrence Utilities is to evaluate its sources, treatment, and distribution system to implement a long-term solution to the water quality issues which have long been causing undesirable water quality. A Compliance Plan (CP) outlining your immediate and long-term strategy is to be submitted to this office. It is the expectation of this office that the findings of the evaluation be taken seriously, and South Lawrence Utility quickly begin to make the necessary physical and procedural adjustments, changes, planning and construction to improve the water quality for its customers. South Lawrence Utilities is to respond in writing, in detail, within eighteen (18) days of this letter with their plan and timeline of action to begin addressing the water quality issues. Should you have any question, please contact our Field Inspection Section Chief, LucioM. Ternieden, at 317/234-7461 or at Sincerely Matthew Prater, Chief Drinking Water Branch Office of Water Quality-IDEM The solution to the problem though, is years away according to Kevin Allen. The South Lawrence Water Corporation just recently purchased property on Dixie Highway to construct a Water Filtration Plant The cost of the plant is estimated at $10 Million the bid of that project was over a year old. South Lawrence Water Corporation is currently seeking grants or loans to be able to construct the plant. Derrick Wiggins, Midwestern Engineers, Loogootee, IN was on hand Thursday to start going over some of the designs for the plant. The company must decide the type of plant to construct, which are four types of designs in water filtration. The South Lawrence Water board considered purchasing water from the City of Bedford, or other water companies in the area. The cost estimates of doing such an arrangement were not divulged during the meeting. " If the water was not safe to drink, they would be shutting us down, and as you can see, we are still operating," said Allen. Elizabeth Dixon asked them to find ways of communicating to the customers and alerting them on days they are flushing hydrants so they can expect dirty water. Dixon was unaware of the $10 Million water filtration plant project until after attending the meeting. " We do not have anyone attend our meetings and stay informed on what is going on. We had an annual meeting last month and no one attended," said Frank Dumond South Lawrence Water Board member. The utility is only staffed by 3 employees and makes it difficult in responding to the needs of the 2,400 customers. The main complaints received by the utility is discolored water, water pressure issues, and hard water. The board says they are trying to address the issue, but it is going to take a long time to resolve maybe several years. 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