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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

For more than ten years South Lawrence Water Customers pay for dirty undrinkable water

MITCHELL - APRIL 5, 2023 - South Lawrence Water Corporation members continue to fight for clean water.


Since 2002 water customers from the water utility had two rate increases, and a third increase will be needed to build a $10 Million water treatment facility.


For over ten years the South Lawrence Water customers pay for a service they cannot use.


The customers tell the Lawrence County Zephyr their concerns have mostly landed on deaf ears.


Kevin Allen is the manager of the utility, with Nelson Terrell, President, Donnie Hall Treasurer, Gary Mersarosh, Frank Dumond, James Blair, Buck Hancock, and Ned Bretta serving on the board of directors.


Elizabeth Dixon, who has organized a group to start asking questions about the water utility, operations, water quality and solutions to the ongoing problem, told the Lawrence County Zephyr she will continue to fight for clean water.


Dixon attended the first meeting back in February and has since observed more of their board meetings.


However, the utility is telling its customers it will take over five years before the water quality issues can be addressed.


An engineering study is underway to determine the type of water filtration plant the utility plans to construct. The decision to get water from another water company was decided against due to costs.


Many South Lawrence Water Corporations customers are irate because they are paying for a service they cannot use. The average customer paying between $40 to $60 a month.


The utility has used bonds to in the past to fund many projects. The utility in 2020 brought in $1.8 Million in revenue, and expenses totaled more than $1.3 million.


In 2001, the utility had a bond issue of $1.082, 137.08 and in 2003 a bond issue of $2.6 Million to help fund various projects. The water filtration project is expected to exceed $10 million, there is no start date provided on when the construction of a water filtration plant will begin.


Photo : Who wants to drink let alone pay for dirty water every month?


Filters that should have a life expectancy of nine months have only lasted only four months due to the level of dirt and other contaminants that land in their home water filtration systems.


South Lawrence Water Corporation has since removed themselves from being a part of the Indiana Regulatory Commission since Indiana Legislatures have deregulated many of the water and utility companies in Indiana.



The Lawrence County Zephyr followed up with Elizabeth Dixon on the progress she is making in trying to get other South Lawrence Water Customers to join her in getting better water quality from the South Lawrence Water Company.


South Lawrence Water Corporation board members tell the customers the water is safe to drink, but none of the water customers say they have seen the board members drink the dirty water yet.




Original story in February 2023 :


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. There are a total of five wells where the South Lawrence Water Customers get their supply of water. None of the water comes from the White River according to the water utility.


" 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.



Photo: South Lawrence Water customers cannot even drink the water or use it to take baths, laundry, let alone drink the water


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:


NDIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT


We Protect Hoosiers and O u environment.


100 N. Senate Avenue• Indianapolis, IN46204


(800) 451-6027 • (317) 232-8603 • www.idem.IN.gov


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 LTernied@idem.in.gov.


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.


For breaking news, news and information go to lczephyr.org or like/follow the Lawrence County Facebook page.






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