The maintenance on the Cedar Springs water tower is complete, and the tower and all fire hydrants are back online.
The tower went offline in August. During that time, the Cedar Springs DPW department encountered a few hiccups, including a boil water advisory when pressure dropped as a result of a power outage; a false anonymous tip to the DEQ that the blasting dust emanating from the top of the tower was toxic; a site visit by the DEQ that resulted in a citation for air quality despite the fact they followed the DEQ’s suggestions; and a complaint from a woman whose laundry turned brown.
The boil water advisory affected several businesses on the west side of town. All samples came back negative for bacteria.
The false tip to the DEQ Air Quality Division said that lead dust was being emitted from the tower. DPW supervisor Roger Belknap visited the work site August 26 and asked the crew to stop blasting activities until a bonnet could be put in place, which they did. The crew chief also explained that the blasting media they use encapsulates the coatings, pulling it downward, and the dust coming from the top was not hazardous. The DEQ arrived on scene on August 30 to investigate, and suggested the bonnet, which was already ordered, and on August 31 the DEQ Hazardous Waste division took samples, which all came back negative for lead and chrome. They also visited on September 7 and on September 19, issued a violation notice of air quality. The notice said they were blast cleaning without proper enclosure, requiring an air use permit to install, and that fallout adversely impacted neighboring properties. They noted that Utility Services Company, contracted by the city, had installed and commenced operation of equipment without a permit. The city was invited to send them a response if they felt this was inaccurate.
Belknap sent the DEQ a response outlining all the events that had taken place and the city’s response to the situation. The city then got a letter back from the DEQ saying the situation had been resolved.
“I think it was a matter of procedure, of protocol on their end (to issue the violation),” said Belknap. He noted that they had the proper permits for drinking water, but not air. “They are putting the contractors on notice that they need to abide by permits if doing work in Michigan,” he said. “Hopefully the process will help other water tower projects go through the same scrutiny as other projects when it comes to sandblasting.”
Opal Waller complained both the Post (see page 5) and the city about her water turning her laundry brown. Belknap explained that with the water tower offline and no hydrant flushings, a slug of iron may have built up and then been released. “All communities have problems with brown water from time to time,” he said. He noted that the water in Cedar Springs is naturally hard and has a high iron content.