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Kalamazoo man dealing with dirty water for years

Kalamazoo man dealing with dirty water for years. (WWMT / Jared Penland)

A Kalamazoo resident said he has been dealing with brown, sediment-filled water at his home for several years and he is asking the city to correct it.

Tim Hybels spoke with Newschannel 3's Franque Thompson and he said he is still waiting for a solution.

Hybles said the opaque water coming out of the pipes has been a growing problem they have been living with for the past 30 years. The water is the worst they've seen it and Hybels has lived in the home since he was 3 years old.

Life here is great, he said, except for the dirty, brown water coming out of the faucets.

“I've been talking about this for years and years and years, but now it's gotten--I think it's sort of close to dire straits," Hybels said.

His water is brown for the majority of the year and not much changes when city crews drain the hydrants about every six months, he said.

“They come in and do the whole neighborhood and then what happens is that cleans it out for a while, like a few weeks for me," Hybels said. "And then it starts coming back as light yellow and then it starts getting darker and darker and darker.”

John Paquin is the Water Resources Division manager with Kalamazoo's Department of Public Services. Paquin said crews performed hydrant flushes in Hybels’ immediate area Feb. 8, 2010; Nov. 28, 2017; and Dec. 15, 2017. He also said crews performed a service flush at Hybels’ home Feb. 23, with the water quality clearing significantly. However, a sample collected on April 4 appeared brown again.

Hybels said the water is darker than ever before and is asking the city to solve the problem.

“Engineering, I was supposed to hear back from these guys with like a solution," Hybels said. "This is where we are, this is what you've got, here's what we think we have to do, or here's what we can't do, but I heard nothing and I've been promised that now for six, eight weeks.”

Paquin said the dark color is caused by elevated levels of iron, a naturally occurring mineral commonly found in groundwater.

“Iron in the water, or 'rusty water' as it is sometimes described, is not a health issue at these levels but rather an aesthetic issue," Paquin said. “Unfortunately, some areas of our system are more likely to experience the effects of elevated amounts of iron than others, especially if the system is temporarily interrupted/stirred up by such occurrences as water main breaks, lead services removal, street construction, and fire control (that requires access to our hydrants).”

Pauquin is encouraging the public to visit a website on groundwater and water quality to learn further information.

Hybels said he'll continue to make do, as he has for the past three decades. "It's wits ends, let's put it that way, but will I live with it, oh yeah. I love it here, so you make do.”

Paquin said the water division adds phosphate at the pumping stations to minimize the negative effects of elevated iron. He said the city’s spring flushing program will run April 15-22.

“Sometimes, months after our flushing program, iron is more apparent due to the cumulative accumulation in the pipes over time," Paquin said. "During these times, individual spot flushing is not as effective until a full flushing program is once again performed. Because of this, we find that sometimes individual building flushing is needed at some locations to help remove sediment and iron that accumulates within private plumbing in homes, apartments, and businesses.”

Paquin is encouraging the public to visit the city’s website to learn more about flushing a home.

“Finally, in certain situations, we can adjust or prioritize the use of certain well fields over others to minimize the effects of iron in our water system," Paquin said. "Two of our water pumping stations currently do remove iron from the groundwater and we are considering additional iron removing capabilities within our long-term capital improvement program.”

Paquin said the city is committed to minimizing the effects of elevated iron and regularly explores alleviation options.

"However, we are confident that we are providing safe and reliable water to our customers on a daily basis," Paquin said, "with the understanding that on occasion, temporary but manageable inconveniences are sometimes necessary and unavoidable within the normal operations and maintenance of a public water supply system."

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