Public concern about water in Blair after monitoring system failure, City says water is safe

Residents of Blair are concerned about water quality, but city officials say it's safe
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 5:33 PM CST
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BLAIR, Neb. (WOWT) - Some Blair residents are concerned about the safety of Blair’s water after a notice went out that the city’s water monitoring system temporarily failed.

The City of Blair says it happened last November, and they have been testing water by hand ever since.

According to the City of Blair, the water was safe and no one was ever in danger. But people who live in Blair say the bigger issue is they didn’t even know there was a problem to begin with.

Tyler Housh of Blair is a scientist who works in a hospital lab testing for diseases. He knows all too well the danger of drinking contaminated water.

“It can be very dangerous,” Housh said. “It could be nothing, but it could be your grandpa who is receiving chemotherapy treatments. He doesn’t have a strong immune system. That could be his last drink of water.”

Blair’s Director of Public Works, Al Schoemaker, says the meter that measures chlorine levels went offline.

“The meter is outdated,” Schoemaker said. “You can’t get parts anymore for it. We’ve actually ordered a new one to replace it but due to supply chain issues, like everyone else is experiencing, we ordered it over six months ago and we still haven’t received a new one.”

Making matters worse, the city did not report the issue to the state within the required time frame.

“We had one operator on duty, and he did not get it reported,” Schoemaker said. “He was doing what he could to keep it running, and it was an oversight on his behalf. Again, it was Thanksgiving weekend.”

However, Schoemaker says the public was informed in early December, within the time frame required for the level of the problem.

Shoemaker says no one was ever in harm’s way.

“The water system was never compromised. We test the water and the distribution system all the time. Every week it’s tested and so forth and at no time was the water ever found to be not safe.”

Housh still has concerns. He says he didn’t get the letter until January and says he would have liked to have known at the time.

“I personally would have gone out and bought water from the store to drink,” Housh said. “I wouldn’t have drank the water from my house.”

Schoemaker says the city reports violations in the water monitoring system to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, who then reports to the Environmental Protection Agency.