What happens next?: Ironwood water investigation


IRONWOOD, Mich. (WJMN) — For the last two days, Local 3 News has brought you the story of Ironwood, a city, not unlike many others in the United States, that are dealing with possible contamination in their water. In this final part of our investigative report, Local 3’s Korinne Griffith asks the city what their plans are moving forward.

“We’re under the regulatory umbrella of the state of Michigan and also the federal EPA. So there’s layers of oversight and responsibility,” says Scott Erickson, City Manager of Ironwood. “So we do take the water very seriously. We’re very in tune to making sure that we meet or exceed all regulatory requirements for safe water.”

Higher than average amounts of a naturally occurring metal called manganese have been found in the Ironwood city water supply. Forty-one water sample tests were completed by the health department; thirty-seven came back below the human health advisory level set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The other four water samples were taken from an area of downtown Ironwood where the fire hydrants had recently been used, those results were over the health advisory level.

For a full background into the water testing done by the city and more about the Ironwood water contamination, click here.

“You put that water up to your nose and tell me you’d drink it,” Mary Smith told Local 3 reporter Korinne Griffith.

Residents say they have complained of brown, sometimes black, smelly water to the city but have had no change.

Courtesy Andrew Rudoloh

Ironwood City Manager, Scott Erickson, says the discoloration is not a daily occurrence and is likely not a health concern.

“Manganese is typically more of an aesthetic issue,” he says.

But the city says they have heard the complaints from residents and are already in the process of finding a solution.

“Really the only way to address that is to put in a filtration system in line with our well field,” explains Erickson. “So that’s something that our city council has directed our staff to look at and we are going out and retaining the services of an engineering company that specializes in water treatment.”

Erickson says the city is currently doing cost estimates and research to see what needs to be completed.

“If the community says, you know, this is the direction they want to go our city commission is taking a look at that and, again, they’ll have an engineering study done and cost estimates put together; what that would cost,” says Erickson.

But, he says, that will affect the already high water prices residents are currently paying.

“That does tie back to rates because the water system does pay for all water improvements,” Erickson adds.

Most importantly, Erickson says he wants the residents to know that the city is working on a solution.

“We’ll just keep on moving forward and making sure that the water is safe for the community and making sure that we’re working with all the health professionals that are experts in this area that provide us good guidance,” he says.

For now, the Ironwood residents are able to continue using bottled water provided by the city, available for pick-up at Ironwood Public Safety.

For part one of this investigative series, click here.

For part two of this investigative series, click here.

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