'Rusty' Water Plagues Leslie

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Leslie, Mich. Lately, it's been a little harder for Melissa Chesney to wake up in the morning.

"When you go to step in the shower and you have this strong rust odor," she said. "There's rust debris floating in the bottom of the tub and you're thinking to yourself, do I really want to get in this?"

That rust odor comes from her water, just as it has been for approximately the last nine months. She uses a bottle of toilet cleaner and bath cleaner once a month to get the residue from the water out of her bathroom.

She's also had to scrub her dog's water dish, her dishes and dishwasher and her clothing.

And she's not alone.

Not everyone has water problems, but the City of Leslie has received upwards of 100 complaints since September. Residents want to know what happened to their water.

The problem: the city doesn't know. But since it installed its new distribution center, there have been issues.

"We had thought at the time that once we fixed the problems at that plant that those would settle out and they kept going and going," said Leslie City Manager Brian Reed. "It's very frustrating because we obviously take providing good quality water very seriously and I know how much of a burden it's been on our residents. And we feel horrible about that."

The water coming from the taps is safe, Reed says, even though it can be dark yellow or almost brown in color and has an altered taste.

Since September, the city has worked with the state Department of Environmental Quality and other water groups. It has also consulted with the cities of Williamston and Breckenridge, which Reed says have struggled with similar problems.

"I think it's safe to say none of us [in Leslie] have seen anything like this," said Reed. "And it's frustrating because it's not very easy to, one, diagnose and, two, to fix."

The water leaving the plant is clean, so the city tried to isolate its water plant to prevent backwash, but the problem persisted. For now, it plans to use aggressive hydrant flushing to at least stave off the worst of the problems.

The leading theory now, Reed said -- theory being the operative word -- has to do with the older, four-inch cast iron mains in parts of the city. That's where most of the complaints have come from.

The city will continue to provide bottled water and cleaners to residents that need them, Reed said, but in the meantime, they will have to just keep up their patience.

That's not exactly what weary residents like Melissa Chesney want to hear. She feels there hasn't been enough communication between the city and the people.

"I think we've been pretty patient, now that this is going on six, seven, eight months maybe," she said. "How much more patient do I have to be? How much more money do I have to spend? How much more bottled water do I have to buy?"

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