HAMLET — City Manager Marchell David said residents should not be worried about the slight cloudiness of their tap water.
Alisha Calhoun of High Street phoned City Hall when she noticed the water coming from faucets in her mother’s house had a strange taste and odor. She even believes it made her ill on one occasion.
“It’s been this way for the past couple of weeks now,” Calhoun said. “It’s hard to describe the taste. I’d say dirt. It tastes like dirt. I’ve called about it to City Hall where we pay the water bill, and a lady there told us to boil the water or leave it out in the sun a few hours.”
Calhoun said she did not know the name of the person who told her to do that, but also said there had been no notices mailed or posted advising residents to boil their water.
“We test all the time, so the quality is not an issue,” David said. “There are no boil water notices.”
She made the statement in an effort to reassure those living in Hamlet and the East Rockingham community who have called in recent weeks to report an “earthy smell” in their city water.
Robert Brown, superintendent of Hamlet’s water treatment department, was out in the community this week. David said Brown is selecting sites to be tested in state-approved labs, but that this is nothing out of the ordinary.
“They have been out flushing the water lines, and things seem to have improved,” David said. “More people were calling us a few weeks ago, but that number has dropped. We want people to know that their water is safe for all uses.”
David said that at their height, the complaints occurred around the same time as water contamination in Ohio was being broadcast in national news outlets. But the dangers from water supplied by Lake Erie to residents in parts of Ohio were very different from what Hamlet residents have experienced.
Caused by algae blooms, farm runoff and improper management of manure and wastewater treatment, those contaminants posed a serious threat to human health prior to being chemically treated. To date, no contamination has been detected in Hamlet’s water supply, David said.
Hamlet resident Vickie Napper said that while the water may be deemed safe, she’s not satisfied with the product she has received in recent weeks.
“It’s got a musty odor,” Napper said. “It’s been like this for right at two months and every time I call, they say they are working on the problem. You can shower, and it stinks. It’s exactly like mildew. It’s been two months. When is it going to be fixed?”
Napper and Calhoun believe that until the water is back to normal, they deserve a break on their water bills.
“I asked for a discount because we signed up for this water and we expect it to be clean and odor-free,” Napper said. “Obviously they are not clarifying it enough. We’ve been here 10 years and we’ve never had this problem until the last two months. I said, ‘We pay as customers expecting a certain quality and we’re not getting that. Are we going to see any kind of discount?’ The man from the water plant kind of laughed and said that’s not likely.”
For Calhoun, Napper and other Hamlet residents, officials’ assurances of the water’s safety remain hard to swallow.
“I don’t believe it is safe,” Napper said. “How can it possibly be safe and still have this odor to it? I asked the ladies who work there, ‘Would you drink this water?’ And they said ‘Well, we drink filtered water.’ I even called the man up there at the water plant and he said the same thing.
“They assured me they were trying to get it fixed. The clothes I wash in the water smell bad, too. I’ve been having to buy extra clothes cleaning supplies, Clorox and those crystal products. Nothing I try helps. I don’t want my clothes to stink. I buy bottled water to drink. I cook out of bottled water. I do everything I can out of bottled water, but I’m not going to shower with bottled water.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @MelonieFlomer.