At the Best Western Great Northern Inn, Havre’s water not only looks strange on its own, but has passed its rusty hue onto thousands of dollars worth of new linens.
Toward the end of Monday night’s Havre City Council meeting, council member Andrew Brekke showed the council a set of sheets and towels he had gotten from the hotel staff that used to be white but now held orange stripes.
William Dritshulas, owner of the Inn, was not impressed with the council’s response.
“Gerry Veis laughed and said just put in rust-colored towels, ” Dritshulas said. “Isn’t that an intelligent thing for a council member to say? They don’t care about the water problem. They’re not sympathetic. ”
He was also dismayed at a suggestion from council member Bob Kaftan that the hotel put up signs that the towels are still usable, despite the discoloration.
“That’s just the thinking of this council: ‘We could care less about the businesses or people of Havre, ’” Dritshulas said.
Andrea Stidham, the Inn’s housekeeping supervisor, also talked to Brekke about the problem.
“The problem has been for a while, ” Stidham said, “but one day all of our white linen was stained orange, rust orange. It was never so dramatic until a few days ago. ”
The hotel took several loads of sheets, towels and mats to Havre Laundry and Dry Cleaning, where most of them were able to be saved, though two loads weren’t.
According to Brekke, the linens were only 2 months old and cost about $2,400.
When asked about how this was being addressed, Mayor Tim Solomon said he had talked with Bob Presnell, water treatment plant superintendent, and they were considering changing the treatment chemical.
According to Presnell, the plant is going to be working with a chemical company in Oklahoma to try and find a new treatment to replace the one used now that results in the orange water.
Presnell said the city is having to consider new substances after having unusually large amounts of total organic carbon, or particulates, that need to be treated in the water.
This past month, the water had 8.5 milligrams. In June 2005, there were 2.28 milligrams.
“There’s just been something changed in that system, ” Presnell said. “We have higher organic loads for some reason. ”
He said the new product would cost three times as much, but would probably need to be used less, which might even the cost out.
Other cities in Montana, such as Billings and Laurel are already using the chemical that Havre is looking into, but Presnell says their problems are not exactly the same.
Laurel recently had a TOC count of 2.5.
To see how effective the new chemical could be, the city will be shipping some samples to Oklahoma and will try to get people up here to test the water.
Presnell, and the rest of the city government, all want to clear up the water situation, but they don’t want to rush into anything, or else the water could be who knows what color.
“The sooner the better for us, but we can’t just switch to something new and end up with new headaches, ” Presnell said.