Problem solved: Apple Creek water no longer brown

Problem solved: Apple Creek water no longer brown

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Soon after director of Wayne County Office of Environmental Services Steve Wolfe contracted with the Village of Apple Creek in 2020 to provide sewer and water system services, he started hearing complaints from residents about brown water spewing out of spigots.

There are two water towers in Apple Creek, one located near the cemetery — the Cemetery Street Water Tower — and one near Waynedale High School known as the Dover Tower.

“There was a number of places in the water system that could have been causing the issue,” Wolfe said. “It was like trying to find a piece of a puzzle.”

The issue began in winter 2020, according to Apple Creek Mayor Rodney Mackey.

“In 2014 and 2015, we had brown water problems, and we put in new filters to alleviate the issue,” Mackey said. “Last summer we started getting complaints again. We inspected the filters, and they were doing the job they were designed to do; things just didn’t seem right.”

So Mackey and Wolfe started investigating the wet well — where the water is pumped into the tower from a reservoir to be distributed to the community.

“That process seemed to be fine,” Mackey said. “We tested the water, and there was nothing wrong. We sent samples to a third-party lab to ensure the water was in compliance with EPA standards, and everything passed.”

There was only one thing left to do: inspect the inside of the water towers. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, it wouldn’t be a simple task.

“This took place in December, so the soonest we could get someone into the tank was spring 2021 after things thawed out,” Mackey said. “It was too dangerous to inspect the tanks in the winter.”

In April 2021 a dive team was finally able to get inside and inspect the tanks. They discovered the coating on the walls was separating from the tank inside the Cemetery Street Tower.

After consulting with the dive team, Mackey and Wolfe determined the tank would need to be drained, upgraded and repaired.

“This is not something that needs to be done every day,” Mackey said. “Those contractors are few and far between.”

The pair found a company in Navarre, Central Painting, that provided the service; however, it would be a while before they had an opening.

“It was a perfect match, but they were booked through October 2021,” Mackey said. “The best they could do was tell us that if they had a cancellation before October, they would call us.”

Because Navarre is only about 20 miles from Apple Creek, it would be easy to fit them in if another municipality canceled.

“They conducted a profile study to determine what needed to be done. We signed the contract and began waiting for October to arrive,” Mackey said. “Then we received a call that they had a cancellation and they could be here the first week of August.”

Mackey and Wolfe met and agreed to make this project a priority. Wolfe contacted the Emergency Management Agency, fire department and street department to ensure cooperation and to let them know work on the tower would begin Aug. 7.

During the repair phase, the Dover Tower would supply the village with water. Mackey was certain the single tower could handle the job, but he had a temporary tower brought in just in case something went wrong.

The cost of the project is $423,000 over 10 years. “There may be intermittent times when the water turns brown, but it will just be from the sediment in the lines,” Mackey said. “But that should be quite infrequent.”

Dan Starcher is a public communications specialist for the Wayne County government.