WMEL hopeful new water filtering system helps community in more ways than one

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. – As many of our viewers know the water quality issues, health advisories, and West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority’s plant changes are all topics News 19’s investigative team has followed closely for the last 5 years or so.

Water plant officials were excited to explain to our team just how much differently the treatment process looks now and what it means for customers.

“What makes this different this go around for us is this is the permanent fix,” said WMEL general manager Jeaniece Slater. “This is the state of the art this is the top-of-the-line solution to the problem.”

WMEL’s new system is only the second reverse osmosis operation in the state of Alabama. Slater said it replaces the granular activated carbon filter installed in 2016 and it’s been a long time coming.

“The carbon has always been our temporary solution,” she said. “Just because we want to make sure that in the future we don’t have anything else come through that we didn’t see coming.”

During the new and improved process water is pulled in from the Tennessee River where it begins the filtration process at the WMEL plant. At that point, the water has already been cleaned substantially before reverse osmosis.

Slater said the reverse osmosis process finishes the job.

“Basically reverse osmosis is where we take high pressure and push water through membranes,” she said. “It actually removes all the impurities of the water.”

Even the smallest of impurities are stripped from the water. Impurities such as perfluorinated chemicals PFOA and PFOS, the same chemicals previously found in the water supply.

So all that’s left after RO is H20.

WMEL credits News 19 with carefully outlining the timeline of events related to water quality improvements, and sharing them with the community since the fight for cleaner water began.

“I think 19 stayed on this story probably longer than anybody else did,” she said. “I want to make sure that we get this absolutely right, and I want to make sure that we get this absolutely right for not just my children but the future children for our system. I feel like 19 has really worked with both the community side of this, as well as with the water side of this and we’re appreciative of that.”

Slater is hoping the full regulation and health advisory compliance symbolizes a new day in West Morgan and East Lawrence counties.

“Hopefully by having something like this, we’re able to actually have people want to move back into this area,” she said. “And hopefully industries want to move back into this area, that are going to offer jobs and hopefully bring our economy back up in this in our communities.”

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