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Laurel corrects drinking water reporting delay

Posted at 5:59 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 19:59:35-04

The city of Laurel says it has fixed a communication breakdown that led to a delay in notifying residents about problems with their drinking water last month.

With the flooding in June, the water treatment plant had some turbidity or cloudiness issues, on four different days, something many residents didn't find out until after the problem was fixed.

When rivers started to spill their banks back in June, that triggered high turbidity levels at the Laurel water treatment plant.

"Turbidity basically is defined as the cloudiness of water," said Lisa Kaufman, Department of Environmental Quality field services section supervisor for public water supply.

The higher turbidities happened on June 14, 17, 18 and 30.

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According to the city, it was back to acceptable levels within an hour.

While not necessarily dangerous, the city of Laurel issued a health advisory notice and was required to notify DEQ, but that did not happen.

"If we had been notified at the time the the advisory or the public notice that you're you know, seeing now would have been issued then," Kaufman said.

"I think everyone is most worried about that took a month to be notified that there was something wrong with the water," said Brandon Ellis, Laurel resident and business owner.

Several residents took to social media complaining about the lack of notice, especially after later reading the health advisory, which states people with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly may be at increased risk.

"It seemed to concern quite a few citizens, mostly people were a little concerned about their health, especially because the paperwork eventually came with a warning," Ellis said.

"You want to be able to tell your consumers that hey, we don't have any confirmation that there was a problem with the water," Kaufman said. "But everybody's health conditions backgrounds are different and you need to make those decisions on an individual basis."

MTN has reached out to Laurel city leaders to ask about the breakdown in communication.

The city has declined interviews, but stated in a news release that it does not believe the safety of drinking water was compromised.

And it has stated the Public Works Department has corrected the problem.

"It's more of a personnel misunderstanding or miscommunication," Kaufman said. "And my understanding is they've taken care of that."