Red water

Price tag for fixing 60-year-old problem is astronomical

Midway through Monday’s public hearing on the Rockdale city budget, a council visitor delivered an opinion on the city’s infamous “red water” problems: “The water situation today is as bad as it was in 1953.”

That would probably be a controversial statement in many places. But not here. Nobody challenged it, nobody even ventured a second opinion. That’s because everyone in the room knew it was true.

When you look back through files of The Reporter you can find “we’re finally going to stop the red water” stories at least as far back as the 1950s. Every few years the idea was some new additive or some new technique.

There have been bond issues passed, with portions dealing with the red water, and literally countless hours of work on the water system. And yet, red water in 1953, red water in 2011.

Mayor Larry Jones then delivered a strong dose of the truth. It’s not a mystery what causes Rockdale’s red water and it’s not a mystery how to get rid of it.

Our water, which comes from wells, is rich in iron and manganese. That’s where the rusty color comes from. You can get rid of iron and manganese by building a reverse osmosis treatment facility. Price tag, $10 million.

But if you then pump that treated water through iron and manganese-encrusted pipes dating from the 1920s, you still haven’t solved the problem. Solution, mostly new pipes. Price tag $15 million.

We’re up to $25 million. That would mean either a massive bond election—good luck on that—or basic water bills of $100 a month.

And Monday the council chambers was full of people protesting a planned water rate hike to $20 a month.

The solution? At the moment it’s as hard to see as the bottom of a tub full of Rockdale water.—M.B.

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2011-08-25 digital edition

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