Drinking water tested for contamination at six Heflin homes

Six Heflin homeowners hope to soon return to their houses with water service restored.

The water board turned off the supply Friday afternoon as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management tested for contamination.{} The results came back Monday meeting acceptable safety levels.

Cleburne County Commissioner Emmett Owen said a private property owner discovered an oily substance in a creek two weeks ago.{} The creek flows near a water line under Highway 46 in Heflin.

"He noticed a little bit of brown grass right there at the end of the pipe, and he walked over there and he seen a sheen on top of the water," Owen said.

The county's engineering department building is up the hill from the creek.{} The department's fuel tanks sit near a ditch that drains into the creek.

"That's what makes it questionable, because it's 250 to 300 feet from the fuel source to where the leaks are," county engineer Shannon Robbins said.

"So there's just some uncertainty about what it is."

County workers were unable to find a leak from their equipment.{} Robbins said they capped the tanks and are not using their gas pumps for the time being.

"We tried to identify naturally what it was and where it was coming from but that's been hard to figure out to this point," he said.

The homeowner next to the engineer's office building said last week that her water smelled funny.{} To be safe, the water board turned off the supply Friday to six houses in the area.{} None of the other neighbors reported any problems.

"I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary," Joseph Wheeles said.

"I drank the water every day and I hadn't noticed any odor or any funky taste to it or anything like that."

Wheeles and another neighbor, Roger Gleason, said they were pleased with the proactive approach the county took.{} Gleason said county workers delivered bottled water less than an hour after the water board turned off the pipe lines.{} The county also booked hotel rooms for the homeowners to provide private showers and toilets.

"It's like a vacation for me right now, just sitting back and enjoying it.{} They'll get it all straightened out and maybe everything will get back to normal before too long," Wheeles said.

ADEM took samples from several parts of the county engineering department property, as well as along the creek, and from the kitchen faucets of each of the six homes.{} The main water line goes to each, but the pipe splits off to go to the house with the water that smelled funny.

"It's possible we could turn the water back on and run one new line to one resident," Owen said early Monday afternoon.

The Cleburne County Engineering Department received preliminary results of water testing from ADEM late Monday afternoon.{} The residential water met acceptable safety levels.{} Robbins said the water board will review the results and determine what steps to take next.

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