Collinsville water troubles raising questions among neighbors

Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 20:12:07-04

As residents in Collinsville enter yet another week of foul-tasting water, questions are beginning to arise about why the problem is still hanging around.

Gerald Garrett, a former Collinsville city council member, is concerned that the water problem has to do with the city's aging water infrastructure and a neglected water tower. He reflected on touring the city's water plant during his tenure, which raised his concerns.

"It was raining that day, and water was coming in," Garrett said. "The ceiling was leaking. They hadn't even maintained the roof on the building."

But Garrett says the problem goes deeper. He says the bottom of one of the water towers hasn't been cleaned of settled sediment in years. That means extra sediment from water collected in the tower sits at the bottom, and can create issues when water usage spikes.

"When the tank gets too low, and they put new water in, it comes down [to the sediment] and splashes, which stirs up the sediment," Garrett said. "That then goes out into the water system."

City manager Pam Polk says she doesn't remember the last time the water tower was cleaned of its sediment.

Polk says city engineers have told her lake turnover is solely to blame, which experts say is possible if water runoff from rain has disturbed sediment at the bottom of City Lake. She added infrastructure has nothing to do with the foul-tasting water.

"We don't like that it happens any better than anyone else," Polk said. "But we're going to do everything we can to hopefully prevent it."

Polk says the water infrastructure hasn't been updated since 2001, but a $3.1 million update could soon be in the works. The plan is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2019, with construction lasting one year. She says while it won't guarantee relief from the effects of lake turnover, it could begin to help.

The updates primarily "modernize the infrastructure," according to Polk. Four workers work around the clock in shifts to maintain the water plant, and the updates are aimed to make their job easier.

Garrett ran for mayor with water being his biggest campaign issue. Even after losing by just two votes, he continues to push for an answer.