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Edinburgh responds after dozens of residents complain of discolored, chunky water

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EDINBURGH, Ind. — Homeowners and business owners say they have been stuck drinking and bathing in smelly, discolored tap water for months.

“It started off a light, yellow color. Some days, we would wake up and it would be a rusty orange,” Shayla Henderson said. “There is constantly particles and debris floating in it.”

CBS4 saw dozens of photos that showed the brown, clay-colored water. Some were taken in the bathroom when people went to take a bath; others showed murky water bottles.

Concerned citizens told the Problem Solvers they contacted the city about the water but were assured the water was safe. The town of Edinburgh posted on Facebook several times, too, telling its residents, “the town does recognize that the water is discolored,” and “despite the discooration, please know the water remains safe to drink and use.”

JT Doane, Edinburgh’s town manager, spoke with CBS4 about the issue. He insisted the town does weekly testing on the water and eventually noticed the iron levels and manganese levels were at a higher level. He added, though, that the Environmental Protection Agency never felt the need to intervene.

“If there was a concern, that they felt there was something of a safety concern, they certainly would have been here,” Doane said. “They would have been boots on the ground.”

It got so bad over the summer, residents like Holli Russ said they were forced to spot clean their toddlers with wipes.

“We’re even like, ‘well, do I even want to brush my teeth with the water? Do we want to wash ourselves with it?’” she asked.

Others, like Mariah Brooks, questioned whether she should do her laundry or wash her dishes.

“Our white clothes are turning brown,” she said. “They have a smell sometimes.”

Many people who spoke with CBS4 said they have started buying gallons and gallons of water so that they don’t have to rely on their city water.

 “Not knowing what it’s going to be day to day and expecting to give our kids that water and ourselves, I just can’t,” Henderson said.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable,” Brooks said. “If my kid is bathing in brown water, there is a problem.”

CBS4 asked Doane what the issue was. He explained that the water plant has aging equipment that is now reaching about 23 years old.

“Knowing that, we have a professional engineering report that is prepared by Wessler Engineering. It has the design, it has the cost, it has all the details pertaining to a new water plant,” he said.

When asked how much that would cost, Doane anticipated it would be between $3 and $5 million.

“Can you afford that?” News Anchor Angela Brauer asked.

“Again, that’s why it’s with our financial analyst,” Doane said.

CBS4 asked whether taxpayers would end up paying for that new water plant. At first, Doane said no, that it would come from savings. Later in the interview, though, he said the town would consider increasing people’s water bills to help contribute to the cost.

“We are doing our due diligence to resolve this,” he insisted.

In the meantime, the town of Edinburgh confirmed it is now adding sodium permanganate to the water. The chemical helps alleviate the discoloration. Town officials also approved a pilot study to further look at the iron and manganese levels. That will cost about $25,000.

“JT, was your water a different color?” Brauer asked.

“There certainly was, at times. Again, that’s what was so inconsistent. You’d have one home that may, four homes across the street that might not, one home across the street that would, one that would not. So, we certainly have seen some, but again, sometimes it clears up quickly,” he answered.

Business owners are also upset.

Monica Gilp owns Monnie’s Pet Salon on Main Street. She said it is getting difficult to bathe white dogs before they get groomed because they come out an odd color. She, too, has started buying bottled water.

“I shouldn’t be having to do that with how high our water bills are,” she said. “The smell is awful, so when I’m bathing the dogs with it, they stink. That water is not getting them clean, especially when it has the particles in it.”

Gilp poured some water from the faucet into a dog bowl. She pointed out how it had a tan tint to it.

“I’m not letting them drink that water,” she said. “Who wants to drink brown water?”

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