Water concerns led to DNR investigation in Leadwood, MO

Water contamination in Leadwood, MO led to DNR investigation
Updated: Feb. 7, 2017 at 9:36 PM CST
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LEADWOOD, MO (KFVS) - Ongoing water problems in Leadwood, Missouri have left residents no choice but to use the contaminated water.

Now almost a century after closing lead mines in St. Francois County, residents are faced with another serious issue, their tap water.

"Sometimes its dark brown, sometimes its rusty color, sometimes it's the color of Budweiser," resident Aaron Penberthy said.

That's how Penberthy said the water sometimes looks like when he wants to drink tap water.

Leadwood's water still travels through the old 1930's cast iron pipes leaving some residents no choice but to buy bottled water from local convenient stores.

"We've been hearing for years, we're getting a new water system, we're getting a new water system, bills been jacked up, but still no new water," he said.

A recent three-page compliance investigation by the Department of Natural Resources may have answers to some of Penberthy's concerns.

The report shows raw water starts off at low levels of Iron and Manganese once it enters the water treatment plant.

However, by the time it goes through the distribution system, the levels are higher.

The report concludes neither excess iron nor manganese are health concerns and are not punishable, but it may lead to a bad taste, a bad smell and discolored water.

When Penberthy saw the results, he said the report gave him a little relief.

"It's good to know that it's not going to kill me from drinking it," Penberthy said. "But at the same time, it's still not like I can look at this report and say thank god, I can just leave this issue alone."

To find out why the water system hasn't been changed, Heartland News sat down with Leadwood's Mayor Dennis Parks and his water department.

Though Parks said there is a problem with the water pipes, he does not see an issue with drinking water straight from the faucet.

Does he blame them for not drinking the water?

"Do I blame them for not drinking the water? If it's dirty, no I wouldn't drink it either, but you know I have the whole house filter on my water," Parks said.

Parks said the solution is simple: replace the old pipes with PVC.

However, the one factor stalling construction is money.

The cost to do an overhaul project like this is $5 million.

How are they going to get $5 million?

"Part of it from the grant from the USDA," Parks said.

In 2016, Parks said he reapplied for a grant to get funding from the United States Department of Agriculture.

But with water issues lingering, Penberthy said he's confused how the city could afford a new city hall and cars for the police department.

The mayor's answer was short.

"Well, they have nothing to do with each other," Parks said.

The mayor points out the money comes from two different sources.

Parks said if the USDA grant is approved, it would take about two years to install the new system.

So, for now, he's asking for the community to have some patience.

"We're doing all that we can," he said. "As fast as we can, but we're limited by the amount of resources and the money we have and without the state and the USDA and the department of natural resources, we will not be about to do this at all."

In the meantime, it's a waiting game, until residents finally get what they want, clean water.

"I'm not going to be happy until we get a new system," Penberthy said.

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