Brown water returns to Redding taps

REDDING, Calif. - More Redding residents are seeing brown water flowing from their taps.  This just a week after a car crashed into a fire hydrant, causing a similar situation last Tuesday.

This afternoon Redding Water Utility officials were trying to pin down exactly where the dirty water was coming from.  They said this incident is not related to last week's hydrant crash.

Officials think most of it is from sediments kicked up from a two mile long stretch of 24 inch diameter water main that stretches through the Enterprise region of Redding. 

That pipe connects the main water system to ground water wells in the Enterprise area.  And it's those wells with their higher magnesium content that are contributing to the added sediments in the city's drinking water.

Experts say the 24 inch diameter water main accumulates sediments over time because of the water's low flow rate through the pipe.  As the water stagnates any suspended particulate matter can precipitate out, creating a layer of material on the bottom of the pipe.

It's that sediment layer that can be picked up when water flows through the pipes at a slightly higher rate of speed and if enough gets picked up, the water can turn brown.

Despite the coloration, Redding Water Utility officials said it is safe to drink.  It just doesn't look or taste too good.

The bad news is that the brown water could continue through the summer, especially if Redding continues to rely on groundwater for their water supply.

"This summer is going to be interesting," said Redding Water Utility Manager John Wendele.  "This is pretty routine in the summer time, but I think we might see it a little worse this year."

Wendele said that once the problem is diagnosed there are two ways they can fix it:

One is using a traditional pipe flush.  That means pushing almost a million gallons of water through the pipes at a high rate of speed.  That will kick out most of the sediments that have gathered at the bottom of the pipe.  But it does mean that Redding Water will have about a million gallons less to use during a record setting drought.

The other option is to use a pig.  The pig is not the pink kind that oinks, but a device that fits inside the pipe and is pushed through the entire length scouring the pipe's surface clear of any sediments.

A more permanent fix is reportedly in planning.  Wendele said that a plan is being put together to put well head treatment systems on the most sediment laden wells.  But at $1 million per treatment system, it could take several years before they're installed.

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