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Waiting the 'all clear'?

Some folks in the area have noticed there might be something in the water. Complaints of brown water have been flooding the public works department--but officials there say offput residents can rest at ease. The brown water flowing from some faucets is caused by an iron buildup in the city water pipes, and it's not a danger to citizens.

"It's not harmful--looks horrible," says Public Works director Merle Meece.

Since the city of Perham does not have a water treatment plant, it has to use wells to draw water from the ground, into one of the two water towers, and then pump it out to homes where it then flows from kitchen and bathroom spigots.

While public works officials say it's not a health concern, the iron build up can cause reddish-brown stains to plumbing fixtures and clothing during laundry cycles. It may also encrust well screens and clog pipes.

Meece says the pipes used to pump the water around town are older and they do have some iron buildup, which can break loose this time of year due to construction and other factors, thus causing funky brown water to flow from homeowners' faucets.

"I have it at my house," said Meece, adding that the brown water isn't confined to one area of the city. It can--and does--happen anywhere.

While having brown water may be annoying, Meece says there's really nothing the city can do about it, aside from building a spendy water treatment plant.

However, homeowners can do a little bit to help themselves.

Firstly, Meece advises to just let cold water run from the affected faucet until the water runs clear--and it will eventually run clear. However, he says it's important to not let hot water run during this process, as doing so could pull iron into the hot water heater, causing a slew of other issues.

Meece says Perham residents can also buy a water softener--or remember to keep softener salt in a softener, if they already have one--as it will remove iron from water.

However, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, a softener can only do so much, usually only remove up to about three milligrams of iron per liter of water, meaning it won't do much to clear dark brown, iron-rich water.