Dearborn Heights residents concerned about water safety

Evan Carter
The Detroit News

Dearborn Heights — Some residents are calling for the city not to charge them for their June water use after their water turned brown due to a lengthy pipe replacement project.

Linda Charara, 41, of Dearborn Heights, checks the water in her family's basement bathroom for any problems on Thursday June 30, 2016. Charara, drained the family above ground pool on Memorial Day, thinking her kids placed dirt in the pool. She had no idea her family was swimming in brownish discolored water at her Dearborn Heights home.

Linda Charara, 41, who lives on North Gulley said she ended up draining her backyard pool less than a day after filling it because of sediment left by the discolored water.

“That was a lot of water, they should compensate us,” she said.

Neighbor Andrea Pagli, 29, said the discolored water ruined another neighbor’s pool filter in less than 24 hours, leaving a layer of grime behind and forcing her neighbor to drain hundreds of gallons from the pool shortly after filling it up.

Sean Moylan, superintendent of the Water and Sewer Department, would not comment on resident desires to not be charged for their June water use. Officials with the mayor’s and clerk’s offices could not be reached for comments Friday.

Andrea Pagli, of Dearborn Heights, is a concerned mother holding her daughter Kaylee Phillips,1, as she and her family had no warning of possible problems with brown or discolored water at her Dearborn Heights home.

In a situation reminiscent to the Flint water crisis, both residents are relying on bottled water and avoiding using their taps, even though Dearborn Heights city officials say it’s safe to drink.

Sean Moylan, superintendent of Dearborn Heights Water and Sewer Department, said while some residents have experienced the brown-colored water, they aren’t in any danger. According to Moylan, the water is fine to use for everything except washing clothes.

Moylan said the water discoloration comes from iron and mineral deposits getting into some residents’ water, and he pointed out the issue experienced by residents on and around North Gulley is different from the issues experienced in Flint where improper water treatment led to pipes leaching lead into the water.

“This is nowhere near Flint issues,” Moylan said. “Flint’s water wasn’t treated right and it was eroding certain pipes. Our water is treated properly and it’s coming from the Great Lakes Water Authority, which is some of the best water around.”

A newly installed pool filter shows brown patches which residents say was caused by brown water in a Deaborn Heights neighborhood in Thursday June 30, 2016.

Pagli said she isn’t taking any chances and said she won’t even bathe her 11/2-year-old, Kaylee Phillips, at home.

“It looked like blood honestly,” Pagli said. “It smelled rotten.”

Sherry Berger, 56, who lives on Kinmore, one street over from North Gulley, wonders about her water’s safety.

“You never know because all these pipes are so old, I’ve been here in this house for 51 years,” she said. “They’ve been testing all around, and you know, Westland had some (lead).”

Charara and Pagli said they have experienced the discoloration intermittently over the past two or three weeks.

Moylan said his department took water samples from the home of Pagli and her neighbor across the street and the samples are being processed in a laboratory.

After completing pipe-replacement projects on a number of streets, the city was replacing pipes on Beech Daly when the some residents began noticing the problem with water discoloration, according to Moylan.

Sherri Burger, of Dearborn Heights, noticed the brown "coke colored" water and had no idea of the possible cause at her Dearborn Heights home.

He said when the normal flow of water through the pipes was interrupted for replacement, iron mineral deposits were churned up.

Before the Beech Daly pipe replacement project is completed, Moylan said “there is a possibility” residents on and around North Gulley could see brown water coming out of their facets again.

But the crews will try to avoid that by flushing the iron and mineral build-ups out of the water system around North Gulley.

Pagli said she wished the city would have given her a heads up about the possibility of water discoloration.

“We still don’t have any answers, you know?” she said.

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