WATER TALK: City of Saline May Consider Subsidizing Filter Program

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Despite several reports about brown tap water over the weekend, Mayor Brian Marl said the number of complaints has fallen dramatically since city workers completed a comprehensive directional flushing of the city's distribution system.

Despite the improvement, the city isn't yet satisfied Marl said at Monday's city council meeting.

"We are still getting some complaints and that's simply not acceptable. The goal is close to zero as possible," Marl said. "There are a few things that most people expect. They expect competent police officers and firefighters. They expect their potholes to be filled. They expect their garbage to be picked up. They expect when they flush their toilet that it gets to a sewer plant. And they expect clean water when it comes out of the tap."

It's believed iron and manganese sediments from the city's water mains are tinting the tap water in some homes. Three weeks ago the city conducted directional flushing of the system, hoping to solve the issue. In addition, the DPW will soon begin monthly flushings of water mains on dead ends.

Another idea has come to the fore.

 Mayor Marl has had conversations with DPW Director Larry Sirls about the possibility of installing filters that might catch these sediments before they go into the home. Marl asked Sirls if he'd learned anything else about the filters.

Sirls said the fine micron filters generally cost about $25 to $30 and can filter iron and manganese "which I believe would solve a lot of that initial issue when you turn on your water and you get that little bit of rust."

Sirls said the filters can be purchased from several local plumbers who can install them. He said he's been connecting some local plumbers with residents. Plumbers will usually install the filters for $100-200. 

Marl asked if they were similar to furnace filters, which are changed at the preference of the user. Sirls said manufacturers typically specify guidelines, such as 60 days or 8,000 gallons.

Marl asked Sirls and City Manager Colleen O'Toole to continue collecting information about the filters. He then said the city has talked about providing some level of rebate to residents who install the filter.

O'Toole said the city needed to be careful about the ethics of recommending specific suppliers and providers. She said the city could provide residents with general information about the filters.

O'Toole said it would benefit staff to know if council would support an incentive or rebate to support a filter program.

Councillors Dawn Krause and Kevin Camero-Sulak both said they'd be in favor of further discussions about providing financial assistance. Krause said it would demonstrate "good faith" from the city.

Councillor Jack Ceo tapped the brakes on the idea.

"If we start giving away money, I would think that we want to develop some pretty good criterion for how we would do that," Ceo said.

Councillors Janet Dillon and Dean Girbach expressed some of the same apprehension.

"The other thing is that I think this isn't going to solve our problem. I'd like to see the water that's coming into the properties a little more clear and I think we still have some homework to do on our end," Dillon said. "Those problems in the pipes are still going to be there.  That's on our end that we need to work on. And so I want to make sure that we're not finding a solution that doesn't address the problem."

Girbach agreed, saying he thought the city has more work to do to assess the distribution system.

Marl said he was "keenly aware there is no magic bullet" that will solve the problem.

"It's going to take a variety of steps and subsequent action to continue to improve water quality," Marl said.

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I have had a in line incoming water filter for a few years, I have to change the filter every few months, the filter is plugged with dark brown sediment.

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