Ironwood water testing continues

 

August 23, 2019



IRONWOOD — A second round of manganese testing showed residential levels below levels of concern but an infant health advisory remains in effect for the cities of Ironwood and Hurley, Wisconsin.

Testing conducted just over a week ago by the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department was sent to White Water Associates, a state of Michigan approved testing facility. Manganese levels remain below adult and infant health advisory levels but the cities are maintaining the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services advisory that recommends households with infants under 12 months use bottled water for drinking and making formula until more samples are analyzed.

Second round samplings taken at 12 Ironwood homes in five areas of the city’s water system showed manganese levels between 7.2 parts per billion and 150 ppb. This compared to levels between 1.6 ppb to 120 ppb for first round testing of 25 homes a week earlier, the announcement said.


“The results were pretty similar to the tests taken the previous week and all were under the levels recommended in the advisory,” said Scott Erickson, Ironwood city manager.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s short-term manganese advisory levels are 300 ppb for children less than six months old and for adults is 1,000 ppb. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services modified the infant level to under 12 months to account for difference in growth rates.

After results of a third round of testing return next week the data from all three samplings will be shared with the public and assist the engineering and planning for a water filtrations plant proposal, he said. The testing will help engineers and water system specialists better understand the dynamics of Ironwood’s wells and water system and the manganese issues, he said.

The second round of testing at the Ironwood water pump station showed 290 ppb, after a first round test reported 280 ppb. Erickson said the data is helping WUPHD to look at well source manganese issues.

Four downtown tests were above manganese advisory levels with readings between 320 ppb and 1,700 ppb, which was attributed to strong hydrant flow as firefighters battled the Aug. 11 fire at the Pines Cafe, the report said. The samples were taken in the vicinity of the fire where strong discoloration was reported.


The WUPHD forwarded the samples from three of the four downtown locations to better quantify the hydrant flow affects on manganese levels and also performed additional hydrant flow tests, Erickson said. The test results should be back in a week and are expected to be lower, he said.

“In the area where the fire was the levels were higher, of course, and that was somewhat expected after talking with the state folks who wanted to see where they were at,” Erickson said. “They expect that short term spike because of the high flows that were used for the fire and that should go back down.”

A separate simulated fire flow produced samples from area homes and were also sent for testing, he said. The results will hopefully reveal data on level changes and residual effects of a flushing or fire event, he said.

The city of Hurley receives its water from Ironwood near the Montreal River bridge at Silver Street, and second round testing showed 45 ppb, according to the announcement. The first round sample tested at 76 ppb.

“In one respect there is not a concern in Hurley with the entry point levels,” said Gary Laguna, the lead water operator for the city of Hurley Public Works Department. “But for precautionary measures and transparency we decided to send additional samples to the lab (that will be taken Monday).”


The samples from 12 points around Hurley based on its water distribution map and at facilities serving the elderly and the youngest populations will be sent to Northern Lake Service in Crandon, Wisconsin, he said. The environmental laboratory and drinking water testing facility is certified under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“We wanted to make sure we hit the most vulnerable populations,” Laguna said. “At the same time we wanted the testing to be representative of the water system.”

The Hurley access point is near downtown Ironwood and there were concerns about the elevated manganese levels from the fire, he said. Manganese levels can be controlled with planned hydrant flushing, but an unplanned velocity activity such as a fire can release sediment previously settled or lodged in the pipes, he said.

The testing decision came after a conference call with the Iron County Health Department, the city Water Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Health in Madison, he said.

Residents of Ironwood and Hurley should flush faucets whenever discolored water is observed and report water quality issues to the respective water departments. Bottled water remains available at the Ironwood Public Safety Building, and at Hurley Police Department.

 
 

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