Informal survey of Isle residents shows varied opinion on city water; official records indicate no issues

Water. It’s an invaluable resource to any community, but especially in those communities built beside the shore of a lake. This year has seen the City of Isle undertaking a long planned project to improve and update its water infrastructure. But what of the water itself? Following up on reports from a concerned citizen, the Messenger has spoken with several citizens throughout the community about their perspective on city water. While public opinions varied, official reports indicate no problems with city water.

Informal public survey

The Messenger spoke with a handful of community members around the City of Isle, getting a few in-depth responses.

The majority of those the Messenger spoke with reported no issues with city water. They drank the water unfiltered and reported no color or taste issues. One resident stated they had lived in the city since the early 80s and had never once had a problem. They added that their water always passed tests for contaminants and had passed one for copper within the past year. Another property owner claimed to drink water from their faucet daily with zero issues as to its quality. Though another resident said they “mostly just stick with beer,” they added they had never noticed an odor or taste at their tap.

Several individuals had complaints to bring forward about their water. A shared complaint among almost all of these respondents was the water tastes chlorinated. One individual stated they had zero water pressure. Another said that the water was occasionally yellow and “very, very hard.”

Consumer confidence report

On the Isle city website, a consumer confidence report is available, detailing recent tests for contaminants within the city water. The following data is taken from the report:

Lead and copper were both tested on July 25, 2018. The Environmental Protection Agency defines the Action Level, the concentration that requires treatment or further action for the water system, as 90 percent of homes at less than 1.3 parts per million for copper and at less than 15 parts per billion for lead. In Isle, 90 percent of homes were at .26 parts per million of copper and at 2.8 parts per billion for lead. Zero out of 10 homes showed high levels for either contaminant. Neither contaminant shows a violation.

Both barium and arsenic were tested for on July 20, 2017. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level for barium is 2 parts per million and, for arsenic, 10.4 parts per billion. In Isle, the “highest average or highest single test result” was .08 parts per million for barium and 1.85 parts per billion of arsenic. Neither result showed a violation.

As for contaminants related to disinfection, the EPA’s limit for chlorine is 4 parts per million. In Isle, the “highest average or highest single test result” for chlorine .46 parts per million, and the test results showed a range from .11 to .5 parts per million. Also tested were Haloacetic acids, which had a “highest average or highest single result” of 6 parts per billion (EPA’s Limit: 60 ppb), and trihalomethanes, which had a “highest average or highest single test result” of 11.9 ppb (EPA’s Limit: 80 ppb). None of these results show a violation.

The Messenger also spoke with city maintenance superintendent Jason Minenko. When asked about the quality of Isle city water, he stated, “In my opinion, the water in the City of Isle is very decent water.” The Minnesota Department of Health, he continued, closely monitors the system and currently only requires treatment with chlorine, fluoride and C-5. He explained that C-5 was a polyphosphate with many uses in the treatment of potable water, including preventing “red” or “black” water (caused by iron or manganese) and slowing down and preventing scale formation and corrosion of the water distribution system. He noted that if some older homes have galvanized pipes, manganese could build up. If a piece of that build up broke off, it could lead to temporary brown water. To keep mains moving and clean, he said, they are flushed weekly and, in some areas, bi-weekly.

Smell of sulfur?

At the Mille Lacs Messenger office, a cause for concern, in addition to the scent of chlorine, has been a strong, sulfurous odor. When Minenko was asked if this was a known issue with city water, he replied that this was a common problem with hot water heaters. Such heaters contain an anode rod to draw out corrosive agents in the water, he explained. However, these rods can also react with sulfate in the water, leading to hot water having a sulfurous scent. The Messenger corroborated Minenko’s statements with a local plumbing service provider and were told a common way to identify the problem was to check if only the hot water had an odor. If the hot water carries a scent of sulfur, a maintenance provider may need to replace the rod.

Isle’s Consumer Confidence Report does not indicate any violation with city water. An informal survey among the community found a majority of respondents with positive to neutral opinions on the city water. Some individuals did report a chlorinated odor, but the report indicates chlorine is well under the EPA’s limit.

Water is a necessity of life, and if official reports are to be believed, Isle residents can have confidence in that necessity.

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