The City of Sulphur’s water department has recently taken some heat on social media for brown water in the western part of the city.
On Tuesday, Mayor Mike Danahay, and water plant supervisor Mark Cholley, outlined the scope of the problem and the city’s plans to correct the problem.
During a media tour of the Verdine Water Plant — which is located on 119 Verdine St. — which supplies water to the area in question, Danahay said a well collapsed recently during renovation. The well was filled in and another was brought on line to replace it.
The mayor said the water from that well was determined to contain high content of iron. Another well was brought online, but it did not reduce the iron levels. “We started seeing it taking place more and more often in home,” said Danahay. “Normally that (the iron) would be removed through the filtering process.”
But the plant’s eight filtration tanks are currently unable to adequately filter. “What we’ve found is that over years of long-term deferred maintenance, the filter material in these vessels has been depleted,” explained Danahay.
The filter material, referred to as media, is a tank lining which consists of layers of sand, rock and a fine charcoal-like material.
A temporary fix to the iron in the water will be replacing the media in each of the filtration tanks. “That will clear up a lot of what’s going on,” Danahay said. “The water will improve immensely at that point.”
Media replacement will cost about $110,000. Danahay added that the state tests the city’s water every month, at each of the 20 stations throughout Sulphur. “We have not had any contaminants whatsoever,” he said.
Cholley noted that while the brown water is visually unappealing, it is completely safe to use.
The City of Sulphur has contacted a company for an estimate on media replacement and Danahay expects a response around May 5. That’s later than originally anticipated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Then, long-term, we’re going to replace all the (filtration) vessels here,” said Danahay. He clarified that long-term means next year. “The tanks themselves have deteriorated to the point that they need to be replaced,” he said.
Replacing the tanks will cost $7 million. According to the mayor, funding for both projects will be taken from the public utility fund and existing sales tax revenues.
Neither the media replacement nor the tank replacements will interrupt water service, according to Cholley.
Also underway at the Verdine Plant is an $850,000 well coming online and construction on a ground storage tank that will hold two million gallons of water — at a cost of $2.2 million. This is in addition to the existing one million gallon tank on-site.
“We’re going to spend over $13 million over the course of the next few years upgrading our water system,” said Danahay.
For the quickest response to problems with water, residents should call City Hall at 337-527-4500. Complaints on social media are generally not seen by public works employees, according to Cholley.