Jan. 21—LONACONING, Md. — Bath times for kids ages toddler to teen have become more involved than usual, Kaitlyn Raines said.
Raines, of Barton, her husband, and their children — ages 14, 11, 4 and 3 — were among countless Midland-Lonaconing Water System customers Friday under a warning to not drink their water without first boiling it.
Out of precaution, she also boiled her water before using it to bathe.
"That's a lot for four little ones," Raines said.
She said water at her home has had "a rusty look" for months.
"Everybody around us has the same issue," Raines said and added she hopes a courtesy credit for the problem will appear on customers' future water bills.
A warning posted on Lonaconing's Facebook page stated water testing for turbidity, or cloudiness, indicated levels far above state and federal standards.
Normal levels at the water plant are typically less than .1 turbidity units, the warning stated.
"A water sample taken January 17, 2023, showed levels of 9 turbidity units," it stated. "Because of these high levels of turbidity, there is an increased chance that the water may contain disease-causing organisms."
The organisms could include bacteria, viruses, and parasites, "which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches," the warning stated.
"If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice," it stated.
The warning told customers to boil water for one minute and let it cool before using, or use bottled water.
"Boiled or bottled water should be used for making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice," the warning stated.
Elderly people or those with severely compromised immune systems, as well as infants and pregnant women, "should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water," it stated and provided the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline 800-426-4791.
The Midland-Lonaconing Water System is served by Koontz, Midland-Gilmore and Charleston treatment plants.
"A problem occurred with the treatment system at the Midland-Gilmore Filter Plant that allowed water with high turbidity to enter the distribution system," the warning stated.
Additionally, turbidimeters and chlorine analyzers at the Midland-Gilmore and Koontz plants were not working properly, and required new mechanical parts to be installed.
The town will remove the warning after it gets approval from the Maryland Department of Environment.
Lonaconing Mayor John W. "Jack" Coburn Jr. on Friday said the water problems were caused by a broken part within the reservoir.
He didn't know when the malfunction started, but said it caused recent low, and in some areas no, water pressure.
Lonaconing officials got some "on and off" complaints of cloudy water, Coburn said.
While the town is receiving some water from a Frostburg system, an unknown number of the Midland-Lonaconing Water System's roughly 1,700 customers were without water Friday, he said.
In a statement Friday evening, MDE estimated the number of customers without water at "a few hundred."
"It's an off and on situation," Coburn said. "Everyone should have water by the end of the day Saturday."
However, the "boil water" notice is expected to remain until at least Wednesday, he said.
Meanwhile, the town procured bottled water for distribution to its water customers at the Lonaconing Good Will Fire Company, 6 Douglas Ave.
MDE officials met with Coburn Friday morning to remedy the situation.
He also said "water is tested regularly" by the Allegany County Health Department from samples collected at area random houses.
The town posted the boil water warning on social media, as well as the municipality's marquee board and notified local news organizations of the problem, Coburn said. The Times-News, however, was not notified.
Additionally, handouts were distributed at area stores and to random people, he said.
"We're making every attempt to get the word out," Coburn said.
Friday afternoon, Allegany County Administrator Jason Bennett said the source of the Lonaconing problem had been corrected.
"While this was not an Allegany County Utilities problem, we did send out our tanker task force and command bus to provide support," he said via email. "All of those units will be clearing this afternoon as the problem has been corrected."
MDE said its investigation into the matter is continuing.
Teresa McMinn is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.