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Spring runoff reduces water quality

Havre's director of public works said today that city water will have some cloudiness and odor while the water treatment plant deals with a high level of sediment.

"The water's fine. There's nothing wrong with it," Dave Peterson said "You might smell a little chlorine, but they're operating the plant the way it should be."

Peterson said the plant has to deal with a higher level of turbidity every spring when runoff brings dirty water into the Milk River from Big Sandy and Beaver creeks. Very little water is being released from Fresno Reservoir to offset the dirty water in the Milk River, so the plant has to use more chemicals to treat the water taken from the river, he said.

Jeff Jensen, superintendent of the water treatment plant, said the water tests safe before it leaves the plant, even if it does look cloudy and have an odor.

"When Big Sandy Creek is running like it is, you have some dirty water," he said. "When you get the big runoffs, what do you do? It'll correct itself."

The level of sediment in the creeks is starting to drop, Jensen added.

When the water plant was renovated over the last few years, including construction of a new section and an upgrade of the equipment inside the plant, the settling pond was not enlarged, Peterson said.

Water is taken from the Milk River and allowed to settle in the pond, but all of the sediment in the pond is not sinking to the bottom. The city can't allow it to settle longer if it wants to keep up with water demand.

Peterson said using more chemicals to treat the water increases the amount of minerals in the water coming out of residents' faucets. Over the years minerals in the water have settled in the city's water lines. The extra chemicals dissolve the minerals back into the water, he said.

They become more apparent when large amounts of water are flowing through the pipes, such as when people are taking showers in the morning, Peterson said. That can increase the color and odor, but the water is still safe, he said.

Peterson said that once water is released from Fresno, probably within a couple of weeks, that will help reduce the sediment and the amount of chemicals needed to treat the water.

Until then, he said, he recommends making sure the water is clear before using it for laundry, particularly to wash whites, by running the cold water and checking its appearance.

Other than that, people shouldn't be concerned, Peterson said.


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