``It was a joke,'' she said. ``We asked them if they wanted to use our tap
water in their ads. They didn't seem to think it was funny.''
After eight years of brown, rusty water that has destroyed several household
appliances and years of disruptive water testing, the family's sense of
humor is wearing thin.
And while city officials agree there is a serious problem, more tests will
be done this summer before deciding if the responsibility lies with the
city or the Metz family _ a move that makes Metz and her husband, Rae, wonder
if the city is looking for a way to avoid the cost of replacing the water
``If they would tell us what we can do internally to solve this problem,
Rae and I would jump up and do it, with the understanding that if it didn't
work, they would reimburse us for our expense and fix the problem,'' she
The water in the house, at 938 S. Willow Street Extension, ranges in color
from slightly discolored to a deep rusty brown color resembling tomato juice.
The discoloration is due to a high iron content.
Mrs. Metz said the problem started about eight years ago with rusty water
in toilet bowls. City tests showed the water was safe to drink. So the family
thought a filter and a softener system might help.
A $2,000 water softener with two filters was installed, but the filters
have to be changed frequently, and the rust has seemed to worsen.
This is the second summer the family has had a large test hole in the front
yard, dug by city officials to test the condition of the water as it comes
into the home. So far, a solution hasn't been found.
``We're still trying to determine the source of the problem,'' Interim City
Manager William Lillich said. ``We did some testing last year, but some
of the people involved with it are no longer with the city. The absence
of clear and detailed reports has been a problem.''
Since moving in 20 years ago, the family has replaced four dishwashers,
four garbage disposals, three washing machines and numerous spigots and
stoppers in sinks and bathtubs.
The family, which uses two hot water heaters, now also needs to replace
a hot water tank _ for the sixth time _ but is refusing to invest in any
more repairs or appliances until the problem is solved.
Last year, Mrs. Metz said, city workers told her the problem was the water
line, since her house was the last home on the line serving her subdivision.
Now, they seem to be backing away from that stance.
``We can't see the light at the end of the tunnel,'' she said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Metz uses the washing machine only for heavily soiled work
clothes, and does the remaining laundry at a laundromat or at her mother's
nearby home. She showers there too, although her sons still use the shower
at the house. It must be scrubbed with bleach to remove rust stains afterward.
The family uses bottled water for drinking and cooking.
``We're paying the city for sewer, water, and recycling,'' she said. ``They
ought to be paying me.'' City Engineer Alan Brubaker said the city has changed
the direction of water flow so it travels through less of the Willow Street
water line. But that didn't relieve the problem, which may indicate a problem
in the plumbing system.
``If the lines are bad, we will replace them, but it doesn't make any sense
to replace the line and inconvenience everyone else on that street if it
won't solve the problem,'' he said. ``We're trying to do as much work as
we can to reach a conclusion, and hopefully offer them a solution for free.''
He said iron can be generated within a plumbing system due to many causes,
including steel or iron pipes, plumbing materials, or hot water tanks, stray
electrical currents, or the water softener itself. Heating and softening
water changes it and makes it more subject to corrosion, he said.
But Mrs. Metz and her husband say city workers tested all pipes and found
them to be copper or plastic. At the insistence of the city, electrical
upgrades were done and the water softener was turned off for two weeks during
testing, but the rust remained.
Now, the Metz family said, tests show their neighbors are now starting to
experience the discoloration they faced eight years ago.
``It's starting to work its way down the line,'' Mrs. Metz said.
But Brubaker said many homes in Kent are served by unlined pipe and experience
some discoloration because such pipe was standard many years ago. The Metz
family's problems are extreme, he added.
Kent City Council's Streets, Sidewalks and Utilities Committee is expected
to discuss the problem at an upcoming meeting.
Lillich said he hopes the problem is solved soon.
``We hope to find some answers in a hurry,'' he said. ``We're no more comfortable
than the residents are.''