CORDOVA — A stream of discolored water flowing from their faucets have many residents questioning the county’s water service.
Several people have shared photos and videos the past several days on the Facebook page What’s Up Richmond County showing brownish water — in some instances as dark as tea — in glasses, sinks and bath tubs.
Based on posts, the worst areas seem to be on the western side of the county, including Cordova. However, there are other reports from County Home Road and Roberdel Road.
Chris Singletary said he has had problems sporadically for several years, adding that darkness varies daily.
“It has been worse recently,” he said in a message Sunday evening. “Seems to be a summertime issue. The hotter it gets, the worse the color is. It’s almost like it comes straight from the river to my kitchen sink during high demand.”
Dawne McSwain, who was featured in a Daily Journal story on brown water in Cordova last year, also said the problem has been going on for years.
“The dirty water calls have slowed down drastically over the last few days — we are still getting a few calls occasionally, but the majority of them are dead end lines that require additional flushing,” Bryan Land, the county’s public works director, said in an Monday email. “We have had three main line breaks in the last two weeks causing the majority of these disruptions.”
Land said two of the breaks have occurred at locations that are very crucial to the county’s water system: a 20-inch main line from the river on U.S. 74 and an 8-inch main on Old Charlotte Highway.
“We are pushing our plant to the max,” he said. “Friday we were at 13 million gallons per day between potable and settled water.”
According to Land, all three breaks were fixed as of Friday. He also sent the Daily Journal a photo of two clear glasses of water taken from a home on Charlotte Street, which Commissioner Ben Moss posted to the Facebook group.
“Through all of this we are meeting or exceeding all regulatory requirements,” he said. “The quality leaving the plant is still superior.”
He added that these type of breaks are not uncommon during periods of high demand, saying there is news of similar breaks in Charlotte and Raleigh almost daily.
“We are constantly looking at ways to improve our system and we have made considerable improvements over the last 15 years with the majority of the money coming from grants associated with economic development projects,” he said.
Every occurrence of dirty water can be linked to a disruption in the system, Land added, which may include house fires, hydrants being opened, vehicle accidents with hydrants, routine flushing and maintenance by fire departments, contractors and farmers pulling water from hydrants (legally or stealing) and dead end lines.
“With a system as large as ours you will always experience disruptions and increases in turbidity intermittently,” he said.
But for some residents, like Singletary, it seems to be a constant issue.
“Here in Cordova, it’s never totally clear — just some better days,” said Hope Dibble. “On the better days, you wash whites and hope for the best.”
She said here water was brown Monday morning, but had gotten clearer by the afternoon.
McSwain posted a photo of her bathwater from July 25, which was dark brown, and another from Monday, saying it wasn’t “too terribly bad,” but was still tinted.
Last year, she said she was having to buy bottled water for her kids and pets to drink.
Singletary said his family keeps a stock of at least four cases on hand.
Some of the commenters questioned why they should pay their bill with the quality of service they’ve been receiving.
“We do everything in our power to keep our water quality at the highest level possible, however if a customer is experiencing an issue with quality they must let us know where (so) maintenance crews can be dispatched to flush,” Land said. “We can only help our customers if they let us know.”
He added that water customers also bear some responsibility, recommending they flush their water heaters annually to remove sediment buildup.
“Our extremely thin staff of five water maintenance employees have a rigorous task of maintaining over 500 miles of water mains and I feel they do an excellent job trying to keep cost at a minimum to our water customers,” he said.
Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, said the county is working to get to the bottom of the problem.
“We’ve got to do the right thing…we will do the right thing,” he said Monday night. “If there’s some issues, we’ve got to address them on an individual basis to try to rectify the situation.”
The water committee, which consists of Commissioners Moss, John Garner and Don Bryant, will be meeting today at 10 a.m. to develop long-term solutions, Robinette said.
In the meantime, Tavares Bostic is working on a temporary, community-based solution.
Bostic decided to start collecting bottles of water for those experiencing issues. Within four hours of announcing a drop-off location at Big Dad-EZ Tees and Phones, he said 37 cases had been donated.
Robinette also offered to buy cases of water for those in need.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.