Common Council grapples with expensive water problems

Drinking water in the City of Merrill has been tested and shown to have high levels of manganese in at least one location, forcing the Common Council to authorize a study to find out how widespread the problem is.

The study will also point to solutions to the problem, with a price tag that may run into millions of dollars.

Barb Hanson, who lives in a condo on Thielman Street, had three samples of her tap water tested by a company in Rothschild. These samples showed the manganese levels to be more than twice the EPA allowed limit. She approached the city with these results once she received them.

Alderwoman Anne Caylor said that while this is the latest complaint about the city water, it isn’t the first. The manganese is what causes the black discoloration on faucets, dishwashers and bathtubs, to name a few. Caylor also said that studies have shown that repeated overexposure to high levels of the element can lead to neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.

She added that a 1994 study the city conducted showed that it would cost over $3 million to remove the manganese. That figure will most likely be higher now.

Kevin Kriewald, Utilities Superintendent, recommended to the council that they approve a Level 1 study of the entire water system at a cost of $8,900. The aldermen and women debated authorizing a Level 2 study, but Kriewald and Caylor said the results the city would need to start working on a solution would come from the first study. Not conducting the second study would also save the city $23,800.

“Twenty-three thousand additional dollars isn’t going to put a solution in place,” Caylor said.

Kriewald said the increase in manganese could be caused by the nine-year drought the area has experienced, which has resulted in higher concentrations of the element. He also said that the problem may only be affecting one or two of the city wells. The study

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