NORTH LIBERTY– It’s okay to drink the water.
North Liberty City Council members were informed earlier this month that a resident had serious concerns about the quality of North Liberty’s water, particularly for drinking. However, those concerns were alleviated when the source of the alarm was revealed and addressed.
Now the city wants to warn residents against what city officials characterize as a “scam.”
The resident’s concern stemmed from a visit to the Home Depot home improvement center, where a water softener company had set up a rack offering free water test kits. The unsuspecting homeowner took a kit, used it to test her tap water, and sent the test back to the company for analysis.
The homeowner received an alarming phone call from the company stating “the average hardness of water is a two, ours is 15; and the average TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) is 150, with 500 being unsafe for human consumption, and ours is at 700,” the resident wrote in an email to officials at the city and the Department of Natural Resources.
The company then offered to come to the woman’s house to do further water testing, if she had her own meter and shut off valve.
“It is a sales ploy to get people to buy home water conditioning kits,” said North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm.
North Liberty Water Superintendent Greg Metternich responded immediately to the woman’s concerns, assuring everyone that “North Liberty has some of the safest drinking water in the state. We work very hard to make sure we meet and exceed every standard that is part of the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Metternich said in an emailed response.
Metternich explained that there are differences between the state’s Drinking Water Regulations and Secondary Drinking Water Regulations. The first address water conditions that result in adverse health effects, or things that would be unsafe to consume. The secondary drinking water regulations are not harmful and cause no adverse health effects, but are merely things that some might find unpleasant.
“Hardness and Total Dissolved Solids are secondary regulations, and that means those two standards will not harm us,” Metternich said.
Metternich said three things tipped him off that the free water testing was part of a bad marketing scam; first, that water hardness and total dissolved solids are easily treated by home treatment units like this company sells, and second, that the company did not contact either the city or the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) with concerns about the city’s water quality.
“The last thing I noticed should be a huge red flag. They are offering to do more testing for free as long as you have your own meter and shut off valve because they will need to shut off your line to install their equipment, and if everyone is hooked to the same line they would have to treat the entire building. That means everyone who lives there would have to agree to have this equipment installed, and that’s a harder sell for this company,” Metternich explained.
Metternich said drinking water standards are easily accessed on the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) website. He also encouraged anyone with questions or concerns to contact him directly at the city’s water department.
North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar said Metternich communicated with the IDNR about the issue.
“They are outraged,” Heiar said, and indicated the IDNR was planning to ask the state attorney general’s office to contact Home Depot about the water softener company’s practices of providing misleading information to consumers about a public water supply.
“North Liberty’s water is very good and our testing history and DNR/EPA compliance shows that we provide a high quality product,” Heiar stated. “In fact, our tap water will test more favorably than any bottled water on the shelf. This is a very frustrating situation in that this company is conning consumers into buying a product by exaggerating and falsifying information regarding public drinking water.”