Water Worries pt. 2: "The water is safe to drink."

This sink is in an apartment on the southern part of town in Lakeview. (Courtesy: Sharon Forster)

Lakeview's water problems don't end in residences - they extend to city and county buildings too.

"You come to work, it's the same thing here in the courthouse," Sharon Forster, the Lake County District Attorney, said. "The water in the courthouse is the same way. It's not like it's unique at my house, it's a problem here."

It's a problem Forster didn't know about when she moved to Lakeview and, frankly, one she didn't even think to ask about.

"When you live in the city, you expect that you have good water," Forster said. "I've lived out in the country, I've lived on wells, I've had wells that didn't produce good water - that had sulfur smells or whatever. Living in the city, you expect that you'll have excellent water."

There are some residents who, while they might not like the problem, understand the town of Lakeview has its hands tied.

"My guess is that they would have to replace the whole thing," Russell McBurney, a resident of three years, said. "I mean you'd be talking about tearing up the streets. I know the town doesn't have that kind of money."

McBurney knows the problem needs to get fixed even if it takes awhile.

"I don't think it's any secret," McBurney said of the water issues. "I try to be more open minded about this kind of stuff."

McBurney believes it would be more impactful if citizens got together and presented their issues as a group instead of just random citizens complaining as individuals.

Lakeview officials say he's right. They receive few complaints in the first place and even fewer show up to town council meetings. Despite that, Public Works and the town engineer have heard residents.

"We're putting together a master plan that will look at the distribution system, the supply system - which is the wells and the spring - we're going to spend quite a bit of time on water quality," Darryl Anderson, the town engineer, said.

Public Works and Anderson measure water in a few different places: Town Hall, random residences, water sources (mostly wells) and the holding tanks where chlorine is introduced into the water.

"The water is safe to drink," Jeff Marshall, Public Works Director, said. "We test it weekly. We just went through a big series of tests for lead and copper. Every test we took was well within regulation."

Oregon Health Authority and Nielson Research Company confirmed the water in Lakeview is safe to drink based on test results. The only issue came from discoloration from manganese and iron. Because the levels of those elements don't threaten public health, when Lakeview applies for grants, the town does not generally get approved for the money to replace the system. A full replacement would cost millions of dollars that the town simply does not have.

Right now, the town budgets about $300,000 per year to replace piping. That money only funds replacing a few hundred feet of pipe. There's at least 20 miles of piping under the town of Lakeview, according to Anderson.

"What can be done is what we're doing," Marshall said. "Unless a big sum of money became available or we put a big hit on our customer which is not a real popular thing either."

In a very early, very conservative estimate, Public Works and the Town Manager believe they would have to slap an additional $50 tax on every Lakeview resident to fund a full-fledged replacement project that would finish in a reasonable amount of time.

Some residents, like Bill Parker, don't care about the cost. They just want a drink of water.

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