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Stinky city water is temporary

Staff writer

If Marion residents have noticed a smell from elevated chlorine levels in the city water supply as part of an annual maintenance “burnout” of the system, they haven’t been complaining to city hall.

“We haven’t gotten any calls,” City Administrator Doug Kjellin said. “I haven’t heard much at all.”

Water plant operator Ben Box said the city started the burnout May 15 by introducing free chlorine into the system to get rid of biofilms, deposits of microscopic organisms that build up in distribution lines over time.

“This is what we have to do about once a year to keep our system cleaned out,” Box said.

Kjellin and Box both said the quality of water routinely coming out of the plant is excellent, and that any taste or odor noticed by consumers likely comes from issues with pipes in the distribution system.

“Some of these lines are more than 60 years old,” Box said.

“If you could find some way to replace all the distribution lines in Marion, you wouldn’t find a complaint at all,” Kjellin said.

Box said the quality of water coming out of taps can be affected by residential plumbing.

“Plumbing systems in your homes have a lot to do with it,” Box said. “A house with galvanized lines can have corrosion, line buildup, rust — it can be a lot of different things.”

Box pointed out municipal water quality is regulated more heavily than commercially-sold bottled water.

“Some of it comes straight out of the tap,” Box said. “I wish we could get as much money as they get for bottled water. Then we could afford to replace our lines.”

City crews have been opening fire hydrants around town to flush the system and move chlorinated water from the water towers to different parts of the system, Box said.

“We take samples every day, at least two samples, one in the valley and one on the hill,” Box said. “Once our levels get up to a certain point out in the field, that’s when we know to quit. I’m hoping within the next week we’ll be done with it.”

Last modified June 7, 2012

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