Tap water still runs brown in Contant neighborhood

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ST. THOMAS - The water in Jose Morel's home looks no more like water than it did several months ago.

Residents of a Contant neighborhood still are describing the water that runs from their faucets at their homes on St. Thomas as rusty brown in color, not exactly what they want while they pay their water bill to the V.I. Water and Power Authority each month.

"It's like chocolate," said Morel, who has complained to WAPA on multiple occasions. "It's the same."

Morel and his neighbors for the last year or so have had to deal with water that is anywhere from a dark yellow to a dark orange color, despite WAPA's recent efforts to alleviate the issue.

WAPA officials have attributed the discoloration to effects of replacing a desalination system in 2011 with a reverse osmosis system. The system, which filters sea water through a membrane, is reacting differently to WAPA's dated, iron pipes - resulting in a rusty hue to the water, according to previous statements by WAPA.

"I have to buy water," said Morel, who additionally pays about $50 monthly for his supply of WAPA water, even though he is disgusted by it. "I can't use that."

Though WAPA officials have stated before that the water is potable - their customers can drink it - many of the residents in the Contant neighborhood do not feel comfortable drinking it, or even using it in daily chores - as it even stains the surfaces in their homes.

During a late December WAPA board meeting, officials said that they are working on a solution to restore the water quality to what it should be.

However, on Wednesday, officials decided after eight hours that they needed more time to answer questions outlining what the solution is.

"The subject matter referenced is quite technical, and we intend to ensure that we provide all pertinent information," WAPA spokeswoman Jerain Fleming said Wednesday night in an email responding to questions by The Daily News.

The technical questions WAPA officials failed to answer include details of the plan to clear up the water it sells to Contant residents, how long it will take before the plan is effective and how much it will cost to implement.

WAPA officials also failed to answer whether they believe it is fair for customers getting brown water through their pipes to pay for the water that they are receiving.

When reached by The Daily News on Wednesday night, WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said his car had broken down and he was unable to answer questions. He did not respond to subsequent phone calls.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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