Village of Windham lifts drinking advisory after manganese scare


Chris McPherson, a firefighter with the Windham and Garrettsville fire departments, inspects the water level inside the clearwater well at the Windham Water Department in Windham, Ohio, on Oct. 17, 2018. Over 250,000 gallons of water had to be pumped out of the well after a drinking water advisory went into effect Monday due to high manganese levels. “They said it will be better by the end of the day,” said McPherson. “This altogether, I don’t think this will be fixed for another three weeks.”

Carter E. Adams

The Village of Windham lifted a drinking water advisory on Thursday, one that was put in place by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency following extensive testing of the manganese levels in the water.

Chronic exposure to high levels of manganese results in permanent neurological damage, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Chronic exposure to low levels of manganese has been linked to a loss of coordination and balance, lacking ability to perform rapid hand movements and increased forgetfulness, anxiety or insomnia.

“Following repairs and treatment adjustments at the water plant, sampling throughout the system has shown levels of manganese at safe consumption levels for customers of all ages,” according to a press release from Village Administrator Maurice Hankins.

“The test that they have to run every day for the lab started showing irregularities for the manganese,” Hankins said.

Pregnant and nursing women along with children younger than 1 year old were advised not consume water from the tap, according to the advisory issued by the Ohio EPA. The issue was found Monday during routine testing at the Windham Water Treatment Plant.

At the request of Windham mayor Deborah Blewitt, a reverse 911 call was made via the Windham Fire Department and Ohio Emergency Management System to alert residents about the advisory.

The use of caustic soda as a corrosion deterrent was the main cause of the issue. The chemical coats the water distribution lines throughout the plant so contaminants such as rust and lead do not leach into the water. The buildup of the chemical in the lines of the plant caused pressure to build, which eventually caused the pump that controls the introduction of chlorine to fail, leading to an increase in the amount of manganese in the water.

“An eight-inch pipe, it got down to about a two-inch pipe,” Hankins said. “When it got down to a two-inch, it was just like if you took the end of a water hose and squeezed it.”

The treatment plant is currently in the process of contracting personnel to clean the water lines with excessive caustic buildup.

Windham drained its two water towers, as well as the clearwater well in its treatment plant in the hopes of combating further contamination, as well as clearing out the water with high manganese levels. All of the hydrants in the village were drained as well. In total, approximately 700,000 gallons of water had to be removed.

Windham schools were closed on Tuesday, but reopened Wednesday with bottled water available to students.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency sent approximately 1,300 cases of

water to the village, which are available for pickup and distribution from the Windham Fire Department, with one case of water allocated per family.

The department has been delivering water to those unable to pick water up themselves. As of Wednesday afternoon, the department had made eight deliveries and distributed approximately 200 cases of water.

“We are making sure that everyone has the availability for their infants, as well as pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, children under 1,” said Windham’s fire chief Rich Gano. “Everyone needs to have the safe water. This is part of a service we have to do.”

Carter E. Adams is a photographer. Contact him at [email protected].