Calera residents concerned about water quality

Your Voice Your Station

CALERA, Ala. (WIAT) — Calera homeowner Jeri Rayfield keeps a bottle of Calcium, Lime and Rust remover on her kitchen counter.

“It’s a big part of our lives now,” Rayfield said. “It’s just something that’s part of our grocery list.”

Rayfield and her mother had lived in the house for two weeks when they both noticed a white build-up in their dishwasher.

“We just thought, ‘Well, we just need to replace some stuff,'” Rayfield explained.

Since moving in two years ago, Rayfield and her mother have replaced their dishwasher, their kitchen sink, their faucets, their refrigerator water dispenser and their toilet tank.

Those are some of the reasons Rayfield called CBS 42’s “Your Voice Your Station” phone line for help.

“I want to know what’s in the water, what’s causing all this and if it’s healthy or not healthy,” Rayfield said.

Rayfield said her health and her mother’s health are her primary concerns.

“We do drink the water through the refrigerator because we had a filter system on it. Then, I noticed, recently, there’s such a build up on there,” she explained. “And I feel like the people of Calera need to be concerned to for their health, their investments in their houses and things like that.”

“Personally, it hasn’t affected me, except it limes up your coffee pot, and you don’t mess with a navy man’s coffee pot,” neighbor Wayne Braxton said with a laugh.

Braxton recently retired from the Navy with over 22 years of active duty, including two tours in Vietnam. Braxton now focuses his time on birds, and his plants.

“When you water your plants, which obviously I got a lot of them, over a period of time you’ll see some lime buildup around the top of the pots or even on top of the dirt,” Braxton explained. “The showerhead you have to hang a bag of vinegar on it for a period of time to sort of emulsify the lime buildup that’s in it, the faucet is the same way.”

For Braxton, it is part of life.

“If you’re going to live here, you have to deal with it,” he said.

The 14-year resident showed CBS 42 a copy of Calera’s consumer water quality report, available to all residents. We took the report to Bill Hilyer, public works director for Calera.

“My purpose in life, when it comes to water, is to make sure that I’m staffed properly, that I’m providing safe water, I’m staying under the guidelines set forth to us. And, also, I’m providing the resources and materials these guys need to fulfill that goal. That’s my main purpose in life,” Hilyer said.

Hilyer told CBS 42 the water treatment plant is staffed 24-7, and all of those who work their understand their responsibility to the people of Calera.

“Safe drinking water at a reasonable price,” Hilyer said. “That’s what we’re trying to provide.”

Hilyer showed us a map of where Calera’s water comes from. He said it’s groundwater from a natural aquifer, pumped out with wells.

“It’s in an area where there’s a lot of lime stone so, as it moves through that lime stone, it will pick up some calcium and things like that,” he said. “But as far as safe, it’s absolutely very safe drinking water.”

Hilyer admits that calcium, which creates hard water, can be an inconvenience. He said the real contaminants are removed from the water before it’s sent to customers.

“That would be pathogens, that would be disinfectant byproducts that we look for, that would be any type of organic or synthetic compounds that might make you sick,” he said.

Hilyer told CBS42 there are ways the city could soften the water, but there are byproducts and it would cost millions.

“There’s a softening process, but it can create a sludge that you then have to get rid of at the plant. There are ways to do it with salt but then again, you’re adding salt to the water,” he said. “We kind of balance those things– one, the cost and two, is it harmful. Remember our goals are safe drinking water at a reasonable price and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Hilyer recommends concerned Calera locals look into home filtration systems, as well as regular maintenance of all appliances.

“You know, we want to provide a very good product for them and we want to be here to answer questions. We want to answer questions. If they have questions, concerns, we’re more than willing to answer those questions,” he said.

What can be done about the water?

By: Landon Wexler

Following CBS 42’s “Your Voice Your Station” report on the level of minerals in Calera’s water, digital reporter Landon Wexler went to Aqua Systems and spoke with President Chris Sims to learn how residents living in Calera and similar areas can best combat that issue.

Per Sims, the high levels of calcium, lime and magnesium in the water leads to hard water. The minerals in the hard water often leave behind white residue on faucets, shower heads, etc.

The result of hard water running through a home. High levels of calcium and magnesium lead to buildup within the pipe.

He said the only way to fix that is by installing a water softener. 

Sims explains the water softening process above.

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