"The rusty water is not a health issue -- there's nothing unhealthy about it. It's just an aesthetic issue," said Wayne McSpadden, operations manager for the Board of Municipal Utilities. "If the water is rusty at your house you may not want to do your white sheets or clothes as it could stain."
As BMU crews can open up some fire hydrants and flush the lines in a particular area to clear the water up, "if you see rusty water at your house you need to let us know so we can address it," McSpadden said.
Mineral sediments that have broken loose are what give water a "muddy" or "rusty" appearance.
Other than possibly discoloring clothing, "there is nothing bad about this stuff being in the water," McSpadden said. The water remains safe to bathe in, safe to drink.
The problem begins at the source.
"We treat well water that has a fairly high iron and manganese content," McSpadden said. "The treatment that we do removes that down to well below the limits that are set by the EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources."
However, he noted, "we don't get all of it out of the water when we treat it. It's something we can't completely remove but we do make an effort. It's an ongoing process."
What isn't removed settles over time into deposits in places like the main water lines.
These deposits occasionally break loose or are stirred up, according to McSpadden, "usually by higher water velocities which could be caused by many things."
The most common cause of a surge in water velocity through a main is the fire department using a fire hydrant.
Another possible cause is a broken main line.
McSpadden said rapid weather changes which cause the water temperature in the water mains to rise or fall suddenly can also break deposits loose.
When a report of discolored water is received, BMU crews respond by opening fire hydrants in that area to flush out the mains.
McSpadden said BMU crews also periodically do "a systemwide flush" to clear the lines of sediment and deposits.
"We will try to do it this spring or in the fall after the water demand goes down," he said. "We can't do it in the summer because the water demands are so high we can't afford to waste the water."
If someone is having frequent incidents of cloudy water in their home they should contact BMU first to make sure the water is coming in clear. It may also possibly be sediments that have built up in their service line. Another possibility in older neighborhoods is that there is some galvanized pipe that is rusted or corroded causing the problem.
And for those who have heard recent national news reports and are wondering: "We don't have pharmaceuticals in our water," McSpadden said.
If you are on Sikeston city water and notice discoloration, call BMU's main office at 471-3328 or, if not during regular business hours, 471-1181.