Some of the 20,000 residents and businesSses in southern Iowa that have been without drinking water for the past six days may get clean water in their taps this weekend.

New “membranes” used to filter water supplied by the Southern Iowa Rural Water Association have been installed. Dan McIntosh, the utility’s general manager, says the water treatment system got back up and running at 11:30 last night.

“We are producing good water at the treatment plant, but as of this morning that water hadn’t even left the treatment plant property because we had to fill up the clear wells and everything,” McIntosh says, “but hopefully this morning, sometime today, we’ll be getting good water into the Creston area.”

The two water towers in the city of Creston are being drained to make room for the clean water.

“We’ve got the east tower drained and so the minute we get good water, we’ll start filling that because we didn’t want to mix good and bad water…When we’ve got water in it, we’ll get water flowing out to the west tower. We’ll take it out of service and fill it with good water,” McIntosh says. “And then, after that, you’re probably going to see a lot of flushing because once we have our towers filled with good water, the City of Creston can start flushing the city.”

McIntosh isn’t sure how long that will take, but he indicated it will probably be sometime this weekend. He says they will know when clean water has made its way through the system.

“We’re able to tell the good water from the bad water, basically, with flouride,” McIntosh says. “We shut off the lfouride when this first happened.”

Flouride is now being added to the “clean” water that’s been sent into the system. Water samples will be flown to a lab in Storm Lake to determine when each water tower in the system is providing clean water that may be used for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth. McIntosh is asking customers in Creston not to over-use water once the all clear is given.

“Such as washing the car or watering the lawn or whatever because the treatment plant is only at half capacity,” McIntosh says. “We need all the water we can to take to the other communities so we can get them off this drinking water advisory, too.”

While Creston is the largest community on the system, customers in nine counties are waiting for drinking water, too. A few restaurants and bars closed during the outage, while many limited their food offerings. Casey’s stores in the area quit making pizza, for example. Businesses like the egg processing plant in Lenox that must have potable water to operate have had to furlough workers and wait for service to be restored.

(Reporting by T.J. Dunphy, KSIB, Creston)