If you live within the city limits and you think there’s something stinky coming out of the tap — your nose isn’t lying.
Oakdale City water officials have confirmed that the city water supply is under a mandatory chlorination schedule.
And for now… it’s permanent.
Residents started noticing the odd smell and taste coming from their taps last year, commenting on a Facebook group page geared toward Oakdale residents, that their water tasted strongly of chlorine and, some said, sulphur.
“I noticed it a while ago,” resident Michelle Hunter said. “It would come and go … that’s why I never drank tap water. Lately, I haven’t noticed it. What was weird to me was around rodeo time I ran into a friend who works for the city (who) said ... ‘Oh, you’ll be able to drink the water again soon.’ Nope. I’ll stick to bottled.”
Jeff Gravel, Public Services Director for the City of Oakdale, shared that the city failed a routine sampling test in October 2016 following a water line project in the area of C Street, Johnson and Sixth Avenue. The sampling showed a coliform bacterium contamination, which necessitated a flushing of the lines with chlorine.
The city conducts sampling of the water quality weekly, monthly and quarterly, which is required by the state water board, the same requirement shared by every city.
“Usually, if there’s dirt in the water line, we flush the line and treat with chlorine,” Gravel explained.
Each time the city fails a routine sampling, the results and the action taken are reported to the state, which monitors public water safety.
A few months ago, the city failed yet another routine sampling – this time in the Bridle Ridge area – and the state issued a stern mandate: permanent chlorination until such time as the state determines it is appropriate to discontinue.
For some, it’s a minor inconvenience.
“The water smells bad,” James Roy Dyson, Jr. said. “We still drink it. Nothing wrong with it but the smell, if you have a house built after 2006 it’s the new pipes they use.”
Gravel shared that for anyone experiencing a sulphur smell, the cause is more likely related to other issues, not the chlorination.
However, those who are experiencing a strong chlorinated taste and smell, it is likely their pipes are close to an injection site as there is no way to mix the chlorine prior to the water entering the line. Also, lines that don’t get as much use have a tendency to collect water in the lines, therefore intensifying the chlorination taste and smell.
As such, some residents have been more affected than others, complaining that their water is unpalatable.
“I hate giving this water to my dogs,” Nancy Hodge said. “That’s how gross I think it is now. I feel like I pay enough to the city I should not have to be spending an extra $50 to $60 a month in bottled water.”
Resident Carolyn-Hunter Mason agreed, saying, “We all pay the city over $100 a month and on top of it, we are buying water over $100 a month. It is in my ice-maker, too.”
The situation is a proverbial catch-22.
While Oakdale has traditionally enjoyed some of the freshest water in the valley, thanks to deep, healthy wells, the 60-year-old water lines are showing their age and needing repair.
“We’re aggressively going after the old pipes,” Gravel said. “It’s a project that’s going to take several years to complete.”
The city passed along the cost of the repair to the residents, which was reflected in the recent rate hike, but then the repair caused contaminants to travel through the lines, necessitating the chlorination.
However, fixing the water lines is paramount because while a coliform bacterium contamination is a red flag, the contaminant isn’t dangerous in and of itself – it’s considered a “pathway” bacterium.
“Coliform is almost harmless,” Gravel explained. “It just shows that something is getting into the water.”
So, if coliform can get in, that means something much more dangerous and harmful to public health can gain access, which is why the state mandates the chlorination protocol.
But Gravel was quick to point out, “It’s a very low-dose chlorination program, a very light disinfection” and the injection points are downstream, not in the actual wells.
“The wells have never been hit,” he assured. “The wells are clear. There are no contaminants in our ground water.”
Gravel added, “Oakdale still has clean water. We don’t have the problems some of the other cities in the Valley are experiencing.”
The city will be releasing on social media and the city website an information packet regarding the current water issues but Gravel urged anyone suffering significant issues with their water, to contact the city.
“Please call the city if the smell is too much. Feedback is important so we can address it,” he said.
“If you call us, we can test your water,” Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer echoed Gravel’s statement, adding, “If anything we can keep track where the complaints are coming from and we can do some more investigation.”
To report an issue with the water, call Oakdale Public Works Department at 209-845-3600.