HAMLET — “Your city water is safe,” officials say, despite continuing calls from residents complaining their water smells and tastes like dirt.
Water department superintendent Robert Brown addressed the city council during Tuesday’s meeting to assure city leaders and all Hamlet residents that there is nothing harmful in their tap water. He also explained why the water does have an earthy smell and taste in some areas and not in others, and what is being done to remedy the situation.
“I am aware of all the complaints about the water since the first of July,” Brown said. “I apologize on behalf of me and my staff. It was something out of our control, but I do take responsibility because we did try something new this year. I don’t know if that was part of it or not part of it. We flushed the pipes out, starting with the city. East Rockingham, I apologize you are still having problems over there. But we are flushing the areas we are getting multiple complaints from, working from the center out.”
The main reason for the complaints is this year’s abnormally sunny days. Though the summer has not been particularly hot, sunshine has been plentiful and overcast days few and far between. This, Brown said, promotes the growth of algae in water, ultimately contributing to the taste and smell some people have reported.
“The odd thing is we get complaints from one person, and yet another person in the same neighborhood has no complaints, but they’re on the same water line,” Brown said.
The water in Hamlet is tested on a weekly basis, but Brown said there is no test for people’s senses of taste or smell. What seems strong to one person may seem negligible or go unnoticed by another.
“Me, for instance,” he said. “I’ve been doing this job for 28 years and after years of exposure, I am no longer able to smell chlorine. I just can’t smell it anymore. Everybody is different in how they think something tastes or smells.”
Brown said that over the years, Hamlet has won prestigious awards for its water quality. If anyone has noticed a change in the past month or so, it is likely due to a change in the form of one chemical used to treat the water. Brown said the city switched from using granulated copper sulfate to liquid copper sulfate, which could be another reason people detect something different.
“But the biggest reason is that algae growth,” Brown said. “That’s what causes that dusty taste people call about. It is not harmful in any way. It might be unpleasant, but it is not unsafe. And we are doing everything we can to flush out the lines in all areas. Since East Rockingham was the last area to be fed the water we’re treating, it’s still taking a while for theirs to clear up but it is getting better and will continue to get better.
“If it’s getting better, don’t call. The reason I say that is: While we continue to have major issues in other places, if we spend our time and resources in places where it’s getting better, then the people with major problems are not getting the improvement they need to see.”
Brown said the water samples are sent to a state-certified lab, and those results show that the water is safe. There is no reason, he said, to buy bottled water or to boil water.
Any city of Hamlet utility customer who has water problems should call 910-582-1117, the direct line to the water plant, and leave a message if no one is available to answer.
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.