Tinted Water Not Unclean, Says Somerville

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Faucets in Somerville are producing water with a less than desirable color. And that water may not seem clean, but city officials say the brown tint is part of the process to make the H2O A-OK.

The issue is trihalomethanes, and it's a water quality issue in many places. They are better known at TTHMs, and they form when chlorine treatment reacts with natural elements in the water. The city showed levels of TTHMs just above the state limit, so they're changing the way they treat the water.

The result is brown tinted water from the city's two wells located in Lyons. The new treatment, chloramines, interacting with the old chlorine treatment is causing the color changes, according to the city engineers. And Somerville officials say that color and a slight odor that comes with it will all go away in the next 30 days, if not sooner.

But it's been enough to raise a few eyebrows in the city, something officials there fully understands.

"I think anytime you see color in the water or an unusual smell, I think people have concerns," said Barbara Pederson, Somerville's city administrator, "and I think they should be concerned about our drinking water, but I think they also need to know that the city is just as concerned, and the individuals representing the city are as concerned as they are."

As of late, Elizabeth Guerrero at the Windmill restaurant has noticed what most people have -- tan water.

"We have to drink it here," she said. "This is a business, and you have no choice. Personally, I buy my water."

Tim Boyce says the H20 from the store is the way to go. He's never trusted the tap, including the current tan product.

"I drink bottled water," Boyce said. "We have for years. The quality's never been that great."

"I have a lot of friends here, a lot of loved ones here," said Mayor Tommy Thompson. "If I didn't think the water was any good, if I thought there was a problem with the water, I definitely wouldn't let them bathe in it, drink it or play in it."

Somerville's water comes from a pair of wells in Lyons. Recently, the state stiffened their water quality regs on total trihalomethanes. The city reports they barely exceeded the new standards for TTHMs, which might cause health issues if consumed for years. So the city is spending $15,000 to change from chlorine treatment to chloramine treatment, thus the color change.

"The color is bad, but the water is good, and we hope that will clear up in the next 30 days," said Pederson. "That's what our experts have told us."

"If you're pouring a bathtub full of water and it looks a little brown, you're going to be a little upset, but they can test the same water," said Thompson. "There's nothing wrong with it at all except for the discoloration of it."

And city officials say they continually pass all state tests for water quality.

City officials say that anyone with questions about the water quality can call them at city hall during normal business hours.