Water main break in Charlestown sparks conversation about water issues

Water main break causes days of trouble for Charlestown residents

CHARLESTOWN, IN (WAVE) - A boil advisory has been in effect for nearly 48 hours in the City of Charlestown after a 12-inch water main broke along Highway 62 Tuesday morning.

Schools were let out early and businesses had to close.

Although water main breaks are rare in Charlestown, it's no secret the city has had a problem with brown or discolored water over the last decade.

The brown color comes from a buildup of manganese in the pipes that are well over 50 years old.

“Manganese is something that you take with your multivitamin each day,” City Attorney Michael Gillenwater said. “It’s not unhealthy.”

Gillenwater said even when the water is brown, the levels of manganese is so low there are no negative health effects.

If the on-and-off discoloration is due to the age and lack of maintenance, one might think that was the cause of the break main, but Gillenwater said the city hasn’t determined the cause.

One local business owner still has questions.

“They think fixing the water is one issue, but if you have pipes that break and the water is discolored because the pipes are old, shouldn’t you replace the pipes?” resident Shawn Vest said.

Vest and his wife have owned Charlestown Pizza Company for 11 years and said the water has been an issue since the day they opened.

“It has a detrimental impact on our bottom line every day we’re not able to serve fountain drinks, for instance,” Vest explained.

That’s something Vest said they haven’t been able to do all day on Wednesday because of the main break.

“We were closed all day yesterday, we’ve had very limited business today,” Vest said. “We had to go out and buy water so we could have tea and we have to boil the water for dishes.”

The city said water samples were taken to the state approved lab Wednesday and will be again Thursday. If both sets of samples pass, then the advisory will be lifted.

The city is currently trying to sell the water system to Indiana American Water Company, but that sale is caught up in court due to an appeal from Charlestown residents.

Gillenwater said the company is better equipped to fix the brown water situation and maintain the system.

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