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City of Centralia addresses water concerns

Posted on Wednesday, September 6, 2023 at 6:04 am

‘Our water is clean and safe’

Despite vocal concerns to the contrary, Centralia City staff want to assure all Centralia residents Centralia city water is perfectly safe to drink.

We test our water two times a day, five days a week,” Aaron Kroeger, water department foreman for the city of Centralia said during a conversation with the Centralia Fireside Guard, Matt Rusch – director of public works and Tara Strain – city administrator. “We test for chlorine, hardness, alkalinity, magnesium and calcium.”

Additionally, Rusch said, the city sends water samples five times a month to the State of Missouri Health Lab in Jefferson City for bacteria testing.

As of August 31, Rusch said, the city has nearly 2,400 water service customers.

Summer usage is approximately 700,000 gallons a day. Winter usage, approximately 400,000 gallons a day.

Strain had some advice for those with concerns about the city’s currently hard water. “There’s a lot of chatter on Facebook the water is not clean or safe. Our water is clean and safe.”

While stressing the hard water issue should be resolved by July 2024, she said residents had two options:

•Water filters

•If they are worried about their appliances, they could get a water softener.

She stressed those were not recommendations, only options.

Given the amount of internal and external testing done, she said city staff saw no basis in claims made on social media that city water was unhealthy.

Strain said the city has not been softening the city water since January, and had experienced equipment failure several times in the previous year, but everything else, the straining, filtration and is meeting the same standards as over the past decade or more.

In January, the city water department’s slaker, which adds a lime slurry to the water prior to treatment, ceased working at all.

Rusch and Strain said the issue will be repaired, but meanwhile the city waters is still superior to that of any of the surrounding rural water districts.

“You can drive less than half a mile outside of town,” Rusch said, “and you can drink the same water, but it hasn’t’ been filtered as much. The slaker has nothing to do with the filtration system. The slaker does nothing with cleaning the water…Everything is still disinfected properly, tested properly… The water that we are processing is very similar to a rural water district, but we still have the opportunity to run that water through our water plant and filtration process.

Rusch said he was happy to take calls and explain the situation to any city water customer with concerns. “We want to give a heads-up to the residents, to the customers. ‘Hey, this is what we are dealing with. It is harder water than what it was, no doubt… We deal with it daily and know the process to make sure it is safe… We have been contacted by DNR who conducted their own test that the water was well within the parameters of drinking water standards that we are regulated by. ’”

Strain said there is no county, state, or federal law requiring municipalities to soften their water.

Though not health related one local businessman, Darren Adams a property owner, real-estate agent and residential developer did share his concerns with the Centralia Fireside Guard.

“We have been paying for improved services for several months now but have not seen those improvements in our water service, in the quality of our water,” Adams said. “We have yet to see those additional services that we have been paying for. So, I don’t think it is unreasonable for the city to look at some sort of reimbursement, or credit on customers’ water bills.”

Adams said the situation with the lack of softened water has caused him and other property owners money.

“I have had to replace 18 water heaters since this began,” he said. “I do believe the board of aldermen and city staff are acting in the best interests of the citizens of Centralia, but we as citizens have been paying for a service, the softening of city water, which we have not been receiving.”

Rush and Strain stressed that though the water is harder than they would like, the city water is still completely safe to drink.

“We understand many customers are frustrated with the increases they see on their water bill, and although some of that cost is associated with the water plant project, we still have to make sure we are covering the cost of the material and process to produce the water,” Rusch said. “The chemicals & material we purchase for producing the water have risen substantially just like everything in the world.  When you go to stores and see the price tag of items that have more than doubled it is a shock, we are dealing with that also within the City just in a larger scale.”