Coconino County homeowners concerned about after-effects of brown, murky water

The Mormon Lake community is dealing with brown water that looks similar to coffee or tea.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:46 PM MST
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MORMON LAKE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- For the past week, some Mormon Lake homeowners have been dealing with brown water. The problem was fixed in the Coconino County community Thursday night, but concerns in the area remain. “It looked like someone took a bag of caramel and put it in the toilet,” visitor Susie Bayuk said. “Pretty awful color.”

Mormon Lake is a small, tight-knit community. So when the brown water problems started over Memorial Day weekend, it didn’t take long for word to spread. “None of us were using that water,” homeowner Linda Jackson said.

In the 23 years that Jackson has lived in Mormon Lake, she says she’s never seen anything like what happened to her water this week. “I mean, it’s kind of gross to flush a toilet,” she said. “You can’t even drink.”

Jackson says she reached out to her water company Cactus State but never heard back about what was causing the water to be so brown. “We’ve left messages with the company, they’ve responded; oh, we don’t have your address, or we’ll get back to you,” Jackson said. “I’m still waiting two days for them to get back to me.”

After multiple customer complaints earlier this week, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality sent an inspector to the Cactus State Utility Operating Company Thursday and found the problem started with a well pump failure last Friday. As of Thursday night, they say the Cactus State equipment failures are fixed. “They’ve been flushing that all out, according to the owner,” Mormon Lake Fire Chief Shawn Western said. “I’ve talked to three different residents today who say their water is cleaned up quite a bit. I think we’ve turned the corner on it.”

In a statement to Arizona’s Family, a Cactus State spokesperson said since taking over the Mormon Lake Water Company two weeks ago, they’ve been implementing a plan to overhaul and repair equipment like the well pump. Filling up the water tanks when they’re low can turn the water brown like last week.

Jackson understands that Cactus State has only been in charge of the roughly 130 households they provide water to for a few weeks. However, she hopes they’ll communicate about any future issues from the get-go. “Their getting-to-know-you period has impacted this community in more ways than one,” she said.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality recommends that people with brown water run their hoses or faucets until the water is clear. They also say that the water in Mormon Lake is currently safe to drink, even if it’s still a little brown.

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