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Small Mich. city hopes water problems will soon be solved

Steve Depolo
Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Rust-colored water that smells like rotten eggs has been coming out of some faucets in the city of Leslie since 2013, according to Leslie city manager Aaron Desentz.

And the city has delivered bottled water for three years to about 50 of its 750 water customers, at a cost of about $9,000, while it has searched for a solution to the problem.

"People do rely on the bottled water, typically for their drinking needs, if they're having these problems," said  Desentz.

Desentz is hopeful that a new treatment process will clear up the problem. He said the new $375,000 system should be running by February 1, and residents should have clear water within a few months after that.

The problem dates back to the city's  replacement of an aging aerator in 2013 with of a new iron removal plant, according to Desentz. He said this resulted in a change in the water's chemistry that made it corrosive.

But Desentz emphasized this is not a Flint situation.

"The water is corrosive, but it's not corrosive enough to corrode lead or copper pipes.  And we also do, on top of that, still maintain corrosion control. We introduced phosphates into the water that protect against corrosion of lead and copper lines," said Desentz. "But what it does do is it picks up iron sediment within the water mains in the city. And it picks up that iron sediment, and it carries it  into people's taps."

Bethel Skinker, district engineer for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said the city's new water process will help. But she said the city's cast iron water lines may need to be replaced for the water to run clear. She also said the problem could pre-date the city's 2013 change in water treatment.

Both Desentz and Skinker said tests have shown that the city's water meets state and federal drinking water standards.