What's in the water? City of Longview's switch stirs up complaints

LONGVIEW, Wash. - There's now more things in the water in Cowlitz County after the city of Longview switched the water supply at the end of January. As a result, some people say the new water just doesn't stack up to the old.

Rashes and itchy skin are just one of the complaints the city is hearing about. It is also fielding complaints about spots on dishes, stains on sinks and toilets, frizzy hair and water that smells likes chlorine and sulfur.

The city used to take water from the Cowlitz River but silt from Mount St. Helens was clogging up the treatment plant intake valve and ruining the equipment. So the city switched to a well at the old mint farm on the other side of town.

The water comes from several hundred feet down where there are a lot of mineral deposits. And those minerals, mainly calcium and manganese end up coming out of the faucet.

Shirley Dugger is on her own well and grew up with it. She says the water from it hasn't harmed her.

"And we were just fine. We may have had a little iron, we may have had minerals in it, but it never harmed anybody," she said. WWe all grew up with strong bones and teeth, and we're still here."

According to the city, the new water supply is not dangerous and not a health concern. And digging a well was millions of dollars cheaper than refurbishing the old treatment plant.

The city may consider putting in a water-softening system to take out the mineral deposits. That could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and would most likely be tacked onto people's utility bills.

Water users could install a water-softening system for their homes. But that can be expensive. They can also add a chemical softener to dish water or a filter for the tap water.

Don Maloney, who is on the city's planning commission, says there are issues with both water sources and drinks bottled water.

"Who knows what's in the Cowlitz. It still comes from Mount St. Helens. I have no idea what's in there. Who says St. Helens isn't going to blow again? I don't know, it may blow again."

Maloney said he doesn't have a problem with the new well but didn't have any specific reason why he doesn't drink the water from it.

On a scale of zero to more than 200, soft water, with very little in mineral deposits, is between zero and 60. The water from the Cowlitz River falls at 27. The water from the mint farm well registers at 91. That's only one step up and is still considered moderate water, not hard water.

The environmental protection agency and the state health department don't require treatment of hard water.

According to the city, it was expecting to receive complaints after the switch to well water.