Small Nebraska Town Experiencing Water Filtering Issues

Dec. 1, 2021, 2 p.m. ·

Collage of four photos, all showing brown water in Lyons. Water is in a glass, bathtub and sink.
Past photos of water of Lyons, Nebraska tap water. (Photo courtesy Lyons via Facebook post)

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A northeastern Nebraska town is experiencing challenges with tap water quality.

Terry Uding works in utilities for Lyons, a town of about 800 people roughly 75 miles north of Omaha. Its tap water has recently turned a dark brown color at times. Uding said it's because of an old filtration system that needs replacing. Lyons is experiencing the pitfalls of supply chain delays and is working with a contractor to replace its filtration system.

“Our treatment plant was in need of new filter beds,” Uding said. “The original ones that were in there were put in back in ‘78-’79, and they were getting old and rusty and they were leaking and they had to be replaced.”

Replacing filter beds can be a lengthy process. They must take out the plumbing and electrical equipment to access the filters. Once the filters are in place, Lyons must pass a safety check from the state.

Uding said a temporary pressure filter was brought in on a semi-truck, following the treatment plant’s shutdown. The city has redirected its main water line through the mobile filter.

“We brought in this temporary filter system, so that we could try and keep cleaning the iron and manganese out from it,” Uding said.

There’s an element on the temporary filter that needs replacing, too. Supply chain disruptions haven’t helped. Uding said the private company Lyons is working with expects the parts to repair the temporary filter to arrive later this week.

For now, nothing is removing iron and manganese from the town’s water. Uding said the long-term effects of manganese consumption aren’t yet clear. He said he’s tried numerous chemical combinations to clear up the water. City officials say despite the color and bad taste of the water, it should be safe. A message on the city’s website says bottled water is a good replacement.