No sweat over brown-water crisis

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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After three hours of yard work in my constant pursuit to sculpt a Southern Living lawn in the heat and humidity, I was in need of a shower to get back to what the weekend was really for – watching the U.S. Open.

Richard Greene

Richard Greene

Soon after turning on the water, I quickly noticed something was unusual as a strange odor – and not the funk from me – was pervading the air. I also noticed a tinge of brown in the water.

After I finished my shower, my stepdaughter also mentioned an odor and brown water in her sink.

The rest of Saturday, we noticed toilets also filling up with water that was anything but clear after each flush.

Traveling around the nation and running into various hard and soft water types, I didn’t think too much of it. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the hard water I encountered near Calgary, Alberta.

By Sunday, it seemed to be getting worse. When I arrived home dripping wet and needing a shower after a soupy seven-mile run, the water was out. I noticed the fire hydrant down the street was wide open as the system was being flushed.

So instead of a shower right away, I had to wait for a few hours and instead got back to seeing what Martin Kaymer would do in a less-than-thrilling tournament.

It turned out the culprit for the murky water came from a well in our neighborhood and was further complicated by maintenance on a line.

While I’ve covered public works off and on for the better part of 15 years, I’m not going to try to understand or get to the bottom of the issue. According to city staff, the water was safe. The development was switched to another well. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was notified.

I wasn’t drinking it unfiltered anyway and usually don’t.

Since Sunday, the response of others in the homeowners association in a group email has been hysterical, ranging from threats of taking the water to City Hall and asking staff to drink it to demanding credit on water bills.

I wasn’t crazy about the look or the smell of the water over the weekend, and I’m not always thrilled at the end of the month when my water bill arrives in the mail. But also I’m grateful to have running water to take a shower a day, wash clothes and dishes and to filter for my morning cups of coffee.

It’s a luxury many people across the globe don’t have, even in 2014. According to a 2013 report from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization 783 million people around the globe do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.

According to a World Health Organization 2008 study, 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes.

With that perspective, I’m not going to complain too much or pretend its the end of the world when a little colored water comes through the pipes and I grab a bottled water.

A positive from this water incident could be if residents follow through on their threat to attend a city council meeting to voice their complaints and get involved in a town that canceled its last election because of a lack of candidates.

As long as Southern Living doesn’t call, I may show up, too.

Richard Greene is sports editor of the Messenger.

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