The Southington Water Department was prudent to shut down two wells following new recommendations from the state on levels of manganese in drinking water, and in deciding to send out letters to customers in the affected areas of town, explaining the situation.
In November, the state Department of Public Health lowered recommended manganese levels, citing health concerns. The new levels were a recommendation from the state, rather than a requirement, so the town is taking a responsible, better-safe-than-sorry approach.
Manganese is a mineral found in many foods and is necessary for good health, according to the DPH, but it can build up more quickly in infants. Dangers from manganese are usually associated with metalworking professions, such as a nervous system disorder among welders. According to the DPH, it's unclear whether ingesting low levels of manganese from drinking water could do similar harm to the nervous system.
More evident to water customers, manganese can also cause a brown discoloration to tap water and to sinks and toilets, and no one wants to see brown water coming out of the faucet.
According to Southington Water Department Superintendent Bill Cassarella, installing treatment systems on the two wells, along with a third that's near the new limit, would cost $18 million. Erika Pocock, water board president, said she's talking with state legislators about possible funding for treatment systems.
Readers with long memories may recall that in 1998-99 some water customers in South Meriden complained of brown discoloration. A seasonal turnover of water in the Broad Brook Reservoir in Cheshire was blamed. When iron and manganese react with the chlorine used to disinfect the water supply, the unattractive color is the result.
At that time, some South Meriden residents curtailed their use of city water because of the “disgusting” discoloration.
We are reassured that Southington is putting safety first by closing the two wells. But even if the water is safe, brown tap water is something no one wants to see, let alone pay for.