Pittsville working to solve water problems

A high iron content in Pittsville’s water supply has had town officials scrambling to fix it and residents fuming since April, and it could take awhile before the taps run clear again.

The town is under order from the Maryland Department of the Environment to submit a corrective action plan in 30 days and then act on it within 120 days, said Town Manager Joe Mangini.

“We hope we can get it done in half the time,” he said.

The worst case scenario is that the town would have to invest about $2 million in a new plant, Mangini said.

Although some improvements have been made in recent weeks, the discolored water problem persists.

“It’s not as bad as it was, but it’s not as good as it should be,” Mangini said.

The Department of the Environment said in a Facebook post that while the high iron content is not health threatening, it can cause problems with odor, taste and color.

Town resident Jared Schablein said the water has an unpleasant taste, which is forcing some folks to buy bottled water. He and others have organized a water collection drive from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 29, at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2812 Old Ocean City Road. The water will then be distributed to Pittsville residents

“We’re hearing this could last a couple of months,” Schablein said.

Last week, DOE conducted an inspection of the town’s drinking water facility and discussed with town officials some technical matters and steps to take to improve water quality, MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said in an email.

“The quality of the water has improved compared to yesterday, but still is not meeting standards for iron,” he wrote.

The department remains actively involved in the situation and will continue to work with the town, he said.

Mangini said the town also is getting help from the Maryland Rural Water Association, a nonprofit organization that provides free services to small rural water systems.

The problem with the high iron content began in April when the town plant had “one mechanical failure after another,” Mangini said. Additionally, the town received a shipment of bad chemicals used to treat the water.

But Mangini stressed that the water is safe to drink. He used it on Monday to make coffee in the town hall.

On its website, the town announced it “will be and has been making improvements to the operation and maintenance of the WTP in the short term, but also will be considering what other necessary measures need to be undertaken to insure that the WTP will continue to operate in an efficient and effective manner.”

The town also announced it will be making weekly updates about the water treatment plant to keep residents informed.

State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza said she and Delegate Wayne Hartman attended the meeting last week with MDE and town officials.

“It has been a frustrating ordeal for all involved, both residents and town officials and operators, as no sooner than one plant problem is fixed, then another seems to pop up in a plant that is aging and has complex internal processes,” Carozza said in an emailed statement. “However, I am encouraged by MDE’s in-depth plant visit on June 13 that progress is being made to resolve the problems.”

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