14 News Special Report: Troubled Waters

14 News Special Report: Troubled Waters

GRAYVILLE, IL (WFIE) - "When it's brown like it has been and we're under a boil order, we are not open."

Haley Malone owns the Hair Barn in downtown Grayville.

"We come in every morning and we have a pitcher and we fill it up and see, sometimes it's a little cloudy," said Malone.

About once a week, when the water is brown, appointments have to be canceled.

"If there's dirty water and I want to make a blonde pretty, I'm not doing it that day.  We're allowing toxins or minerals or sediments to lay on people's hair, and that could affect a major color change and also a feel change," said Malone.

"I hate having to call my clients.  It's caused us to lose a lot of potential walk-ins when we have to be closed. I'm a single mom with two kids and I come here and I want to work and I love what I do.  When I can't be here, it's just heartbreaking," said stylist Courtney Bailey.

The brown water is not just an inconvenience for clients.

"We usually have to go to Carmi or Albion to do our laundry when the water's really bad because if we were to wash our white towels, they'd be brown and dirty."

Just down the street at Roosevelt's Pizza, manager Joseph Amos said the owners have spent around $11,000 on new plumbing, a new water heater, filters, even new drink machines because of buildup from the brown water.

"You put water in a pan to heat sauce and at the end of the night, you can see all these sediments at the bottom," said Amos.

According to Grayville Mayor Joe Bisch, this started in early 2017 when the city had a major water main leak.

"We were leaking about 200,000 gallons of water a day. We just could not find it.  We spent six to seven months finding it," said Bisch.

At that same time, the telemetry system which measures water levels in the tower broke.  That means crews cannot measure when the water is getting low enough to stir up sediments on the bottom of the tank.  When the water gets low in the tower, those sediments end up in the water in people's homes.

While the water looks dirty, the mayor says it is safe.  Water department officials test it daily before it goes into the tower and when it comes out.  Those tests show no dangerous amounts of chemicals.

"They're very upset and I understand very much.  I'd be upset also.  I'm one of the very few that has very little brown water.  Our city clerk, she's been fighting it.  That's the way it is and I'm sorry for it.  It's not like we haven't been doing something.  Hopefully, we'll get this fixed pretty quick," said Bisch.

Mayor Bisch said the best solution is to build a regional water treatment plant, a plan in its early stages but he hopes will happen sometime in 2018.

"We've been around and looked at different plants all over southern Illinois and the quality of water is just great when you have a filtration plant."

Until then, crews are installing a new system to measure water levels and a new well.

"When we get this new well started up, we can clean the tower.  Once we start pumping after that, we'll flush all the lines, hopefully that will be a cure until we get the new filtration plant."

A solution the town's people say cannot come soon enough.

"We're having to pay for all this dirty water when I don't think you'd want to pay for brown dirty water," said Amos.

Test results do show higher levels of iron and manganese in the water, which can cause some discoloration.  But according to EPA officials, they're not harmful to your health.

According to city officials, the new telemetry system and well will be up and operating in a few weeks.  The Wabash Valley Water District and rural development officials will now move forward with seeking funds to build the new water filtration plant.

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