‘Drink at your own risk’: Residents in rural Missouri town fed up with murky, smelly water

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WINSTON, Mo. -- People living in one rural Missouri town north of the metro are afraid to drink their water.

Residents in Winston have been questioning the quality of their water for months. The source is Daviess Public Water Supply District No. 1.

“You know, you can’t just pack up and move because the water’s not good,” said Arvella Eaton, who has lived in Winston for 40 years.

When FOX4 stopped by her house Friday afternoon, the water appeared to be fine, but the 71-year-old said it’s not consistent.

“It’s been pretty clean today. Tonight, it may not be,” she said.

Eaton said it’s not the color of the water she finds disgusting, it’s the smell.

“I’ve gotten it out of my faucet when it was plum yellow,” she said. “It’s sour, just smells bad. Then there’s times when it smells like pure bleach.”

Eaton is so leery of the water in town that she checks it with a flashlight.

“I just had to have a faucet replaced today because it was so corroded with limescale,” she said. “It was nasty. You can’t depend on your water being drinkable every day, smell good every day.”

Pictures from residents, who asked to stay anonymous, show murky water in the toilet and drinking glasses.

A comparison of a water filter connected to an ice machine in town also painted a picture of why some are concerned. The filter was installed on Tuesday and was already brown by Thursday.

“We used to not have any water problems, but here in the last couple of years it’s had its problems,” Arvella said.

Residents who talked with FOX4 said representatives with Daviess Public Water Supply District No. 1 won’t answer the questions.

“What’s it going to take? A new filtration system, new pumps, new wells? What? What’s it going to take,” Arvello said with frustration.

In October, the Department of Natural Resources conducted two investigations and found the water quality in the district did not violate drinking water standards. The department concluded that water main flushing and high than standard iron and manganese levels found led to the discoloration.

“Drink at your own risk,” Eaton warned.

She feels like the community is paying for a service they don’t trust, and she simply wants the water board to be more transparent.

“Why can’t you get our water clean and keep it clean? Why?” Arvello asked.

The DNR made recommendations to the water board, including an evaluation of the scaling within the water lines, a routine flushing plan and a water quality verification system.

Here is the full statement from the DNR to FOX4:

The Northeast Regional Office received some concerns about discolored water in the Daviess Public Water Supply District #1 during the month of September.

Staff conducted two investigations and found no discolored water during the investigations. The samples collected and monitoring conducted showed the water quality did not violate drinking water standards.

Bacteriological samples were negative for total coliform. Total chlorine residuals were within regulatory limits. Iron and manganese levels were above the recommended secondary standards during the first investigation at one location. Secondary standards are not health related standards but may result in aesthetic issues.

During the second investigation, the district had been flushing in the area near the City of Winston for about two weeks. The flushing has been discontinued at the present time. The water district has received reports of discoloration.

Staff has recommended an evaluation of the scaling within the water lines, development of a routine water line flushing plan, and verifying water quality at several locations within the system.

FOX4 wanted to know if Daviess Public Water Supply District No. 1 implemented any of the recommendations, but no one from the board returned our calls.

The water board has a meeting on Nov. 21, according to a post on their Facebook page.

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