Onawa’s water has been a brownish reddish color due to moderately high levels of iron and another metal called manganese. State environmental officials say the main impact of the manganese is it makes the water look bad. Sarah Haptonstall says that’s exactly whey she avoids drinking her tap water. “Some days I have clear water and some days it looks like someone got shot in my bathtub,” Haptonstall says.
The city started treating its water with a chemical compound called sodium permanganate about one week ago. Onawa’s Water Treatment Plant Operator David Richardson says they’ve seen immediate improvements. He says the manganese levels in their tanks dropped the very next day and it has gotten better every day since. But he says it could take a while to clear all the manganese out of some of the water lines.
“We’ve had some people comment that their water is clearing up. Keep in mind we have over 50 dead end water mains that have a lot of sediment in them,” he says, “so it will take extra time to get the sediment out of those pipes.” Onawa has a population around three-thousand and bills itself on the city website as having the widest main street in the United States.
(Thanks to Kaite Piekes, Iowa Public Radio)