Mount Pleasant boil water advisory lifted

Courtesy Image | City of Mount Pleasant

Editor's note: This story was originally published on on Sept. 2 and was last updated Sept. 6.

The City of Mount Pleasant lifted its Boil Water Advisory on Sunday, Sept. 4. The city originally issued the advisory two days prior "out of an abundance of caution" after high turbidity levels were found in the water system. 

According to a press release on Sept. 4, consumption of the drinking water could resume immediately.

"The city’s water supply has successfully completed two rounds of testing and all samples have passed," the release said.

Mount Pleasant and Central Michigan University residents may notice a chlorine smell due to Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) request for an elevated chlorine residual during the boil water advisory.

"This smell raises no safety concerns and will dissipate in the next few days," the press release said.

Normal turbidity levels at the water treatment plant are 0.03 turbidity units. A sample taken on Sept. 1 showed 1.99 turbidity units, almost twice the standard of 1.0 units. 

A Sept. 2 press release from the city said turbidity—or cloudiness—does not have health effects by itself.

Jason DeFeyter, the water superintendent for the City of Mount Pleasant, said high turbidity can hide the presence of disease-causing organisms while also providing an environment for them to grow in–making it harder to filter them out. Chlorine and other chemicals have a harder time cleaning water when there is turbidity, he said.

The issue was caused by an error while operating the valves at the water treatment plant, DeFeyter said. Two of the filters, which use sand and anthracite, were filled with water beyond what they could handle and some of the particles broke through into the water supply, causing the turbidity. 

The breakthrough lasted about eight minutes, he said, and the affected water was 0.8 percent of the day's total production. 

DeFeyter said two back-to-back test results have to come back clear before an advisory can be safely lifted. Each test takes 24 hours to complete, he said, meaning Sept. 4 was the best-case scenario. 

According to the advisory from the city, residents—including those who live on Central Michigan University's campus—had to boil tap and faucet water before consuming or using it. Bottled water was also recommended for use.

An announcement from University Communications said bottled water was available in residence halls. The message also advised using boiled or bottled water for making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and preparing food.

CMU's announcement said classes, athletics and other scheduled events would not change, but the pool in the Student Activity Center was closed. Showering and bathing with campus water was safe, the announcement said, as long as the water was not ingested.    

DeFeyter said the turbidity issue on Sept. 1 was unrelated to reports of discolored water in residence halls last week. According to some students in Merrill Hall, there had been brown, black and yellow water coming out of their sinks and toilets since Aug. 29.    

Alex Kniaz, a junior who lives on the second floor of Merrill, said he had no problems with his water. Emily Heintzeman and Gwen Budnar, also on the second floor, said their water had changed between several colors throughout the week.

Students on the third floor also reported similar experiences—some had on-and-off problems and some did not have any issues with their water.

Ari Harris, executive director of University Communications, said the discoloration affected "most of the residence halls on campus" and was not connected to the boil water advisory.

According to DeFeyter, the issue in the dorms originated from an ongoing project to widen the intersection of Broomfield and Lincoln streets. A water main and fire hydrant were removed during the project. After the water main was reconnected and the water started running again, sediments naturally found in the pipes were disturbed, causing the changes in water color.  

"It's just an aesthetic problem, DeFeyter said prior to the boil advisory. "It does not pose any safety issues."

On Aug. 30, the Office of Residence Life sent out notifications through social media about the discolored water.

"The City of Mt Pleasant recently conducted the flushing of a fire hydrant near campus which can result in the discoloration of the potable water," the notification said. "The campus community can clear any discolored water by running the faucet for a few moments until the water appears clear."

For some students, the issue was cleared up after running their taps until the water cleared. DeFeyter said this can be used as a solution again if the discolored water returns.