West Point water alert comes a year after resident's report

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WEST POINT, Neb. (WOWT) -- The State of Nebraska has ordered the people of West Point to stop drinking the water, and health officials believe it could take up to two years to fix the problem.

The State of Nebraska has ordered the people of West Point to stop drinking the water, and health officials believe it could take up to two years to fix the problem. (WOWT)

That word comes more than a year after residents began to complain, and now they’re wondering why it took so long to get a response.

"If anything positive comes out of this, my goal is that no other family has to experience what we've been through," said Lisa Eisenmenger, who first sounded the alarm to city leaders about the West Point drinking water a year ago.

The water looked bad. It smelled and tasted worse.

Eisenmenger's son, Colin, was having brain issues that couldn't be explained by doctors.

He couldn't zip his coat, he began shuffling his feet and had trouble remembering things, “losing the essence of who he was,” she said. “He wasn't the same happy and bubbly kid, He struggled to do the most basic motor activities. As fast as he was declining, we were concerned he had a terminal illness. We thought we had months to spend with him."

So they stopped drinking the city's water.

Within a couple weeks, Eisenmenger said, Colin started to get his personality back. But the second-grader still struggles though with fine motor skills.

"People's lives are forever changed by unsafe drinking water," she said.

On Wednesday, the Nebraska Health Department put West Point on notice and ordered the community to stop drinking the water because of high levels of manganese.

Levels above 300 micrograms per liter can affect the central nervous system for infants. West Point's water exceeds 1,000 micrograms.

Back in December, 6 News asked City Administrator Tom Goulette whether the water was safe: “Yes. The water is safe," he said. "We meet all the health standards set by the State of Nebraska."

We asked Goulette on Wednesday why it took so long to notify the state while many in the community of 3,300 people continued to drink the water. He said the water testing "process is slow" and that the city moved "as quickly as it could."

Eisenmenger said she doesn't think the city took the water problems seriously.

“I think West Point is going to become an example of why water treatment testing and updated regulations are so important," she said.

Earlier this month, as her son competed at a tractor pull at the county fairgrounds, there was a sign posted that read: "The City of West Point has advised us that the water is clean and safe.”

Eisenmenger advised otherwise.

"We're still a long ways from having safe drinking water," she said.

Manganese is needed for digestion. It’s not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

West Point has put together a plan to build a new filtering system. The City Administrator said he hopes it’s up and running by the first of the year.

For now, the people of West Point have been urged to drink bottled water.


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