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Head: Red Cliffians continue to boil

Cliff Thompson

A water manifold on the $460,000 filtration system cracked after less than 200 hours of operation, taking one of the two filtration systems off-line. That single unit was not able to meet the town’s needs and the town supplemented the water supply with untreated water, said Red Cliff Administrator Bob Slagle.

How the manifold cracked is a matter of some debate:

? The supplier, U.S. Filter, said a power outage Saturday shut down the heat to the filtration plant, allowing the lines to freeze.



? Slagle and others say the manifold was incorrectly installed, causing pressure to build on a flushing exhaust system until it cracked the manifold.

Whatever the case, the year-old order by the state Department of Health to boil water before drinking it.



Raw water in Red Cliff’s system carries Giardia lamblia, an intestinal parasite that can cause diarrhea, fever and cramping.

“I’m irritated as all get out,” Slagle said. “I feel this is a demonstration of the lack of importance the manufacturer places on Red Cliff.”

“We are quite anxious to get this up an running,” said U.S. Filter’s John Lewis. “We’re very sympathetic to Red Cliff’s need and have had some unfortunate bumps in the road.”



Repairs were being made Wednesday, Slagle said, and he’s expecting the system to be back in operation by Tuesday. Until then, the town will over-chlorinate the water in the storage tank and lines to purify it. That water will again be flushed from the lines leaving drinkable water. Slagle said the town will have the water tested for purity by the Eagle River Water and Sanitation. Once it is drinkable, the Department of Health will end the boil order.

Because of the second flushing, Slagle said, the town will have the cleanest water lines in the area.

Just what caused the 4-inch plastic line to rupture may not be known. The manufacturer said the power outage shut off the heat to the pump building letting the water freeze. When water freezes, it expands, and that is what broke the pipe, the manufacturer said.

Slagle said the manifold was misaligned when it was installed and that that was the reason pressure built to a high enough level on the backflush system to rupture it. He did say the U.S. Filter has been very cooperative in attempting to fix the problem.

The new microfiltration system, when operating, will produce up to 250,000 gallons of water per day for the town’s 180 residents and its businesses.

The system was brought online last week, and Slagle said he had hoped to have had the boil order lifted Tuesday.

With one of the two filtration units working, only 125,000 gallons of pure water per day can be produced. That would be enough water if Red Cliff’s water main system was more efficient, said Slagle.

The town’s mains are laid near bedrock, which is not deep enough to prevent them from freezing. To prevent that, the town allows the lines to bleed water-100 gallons per minute from its three lines.

“The town intends to eliminate end-line bleeding. If the rest of the people in town will shut their bleeders off, we could survive on one unit of the water plant,” he said.

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