Despite color, water is ‘safe to drink’ in Jordan on the James

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 16, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.

Sediment build-up in lines after chlorination change eyed as culprit

PRINCE GEORGE – As the Jordan on the James, Beechwood Manor, and Eagle Preserve subdivisions continue under ongoing water restrictions following damage to a key water system building in the area, residents are also talking about an issue that has been part of their lives for several years – discoloration of their water.

Monday, residents of the three communities and the public-at-large were on hand for a special meeting of the Prince George Board of Supervisors, where utilities director Frank Haltom delivered an update on where the county was in regards to repairs to a water storage building whose roof was heavily damaged when a tree crashed through it during a May severe thunderstorm and to answer questions about reports of murky, brown water flowing from some taps in the Jordan on the James subdivision.

According to Haltom prior to this week’s meeting, he explained that the discoloration is not related to the reservoir at Beechwood Manor and that, “it has been an ongoing issue for years.” In an interview, he said he believes they are making some headway in determining the cause of the issue.

“We think we understand, thanks to communications with the health department, why we still have brown water when we thought we had a solution,” Haltom said.

He explained, roughly four years ago, someone at the county prior to his arrival as utilities director in 2018, “was directed to move the chlorination line from the well source to the distribution lines.”

“In doing so, what that does is bypass the filters with the chlorine,” Haltom explained. “The use of the chlorine was to break apart the iron that was in the water. And then it would go through the filter, therefore, filtering out the iron. So what was happening was the iron was falling apart in the system, instead of oxidizing. Instead of it oxidizing prior to it getting to the filters and being captured by those filters, it was oxidizing within the system.”

According to Haltom, they have since put the chlorination line back where the well pump source is so that it would actually oxidize and be captured by the filter but, the results of having that chlorination line moved to the distribution line years earlier remain.

“What we have learned is, most likely, there is a large build-up of some type of brown sediment caused by that iron,” Haltom said. “Now that we are still using the same water, every now and then, as you have water demand, it pulls some of that sediment into the system. So as we flush, we may make the system worse in those particular areas where that sediment is.”

According to the director, there are “only a handful of areas who are at the end of lines” who are being impacted by this brown sediment in their water periodically.

“Where there is high demand, we don’t have that issue but, where there is low demand, that is where you are going to have that sediment there,” he explained.

In regards to a solution to this ongoing problem, Haltom said flushing will be needed but, that cannot occur until the systems are back online.

“The solution is a whole lot of flushing, which we cannot do until the reservoir is repaired,” he said. “At this time, the system is running the way it is supposed to be running. Yes, the water is brown, but it is safe to drink.”

He remarked he is unsure if it stains but, “it does leave a ring around your bathtub if you leave it there for a long time if you don’t drain it immediately. I don’t know if it will stain clothes as I have not witnessed that yet.”

“Yes, there is some brown water out there still but, it is safe to drink,” Haltom closed. “All the contaminants have been removed.”

Those with questions are asked to contact the county’s utilities department director Frank Haltom at 804-722-8688 or

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