Ferndale softens water supply

Ferndale residents finally can enjoy softer water.

City officials have answered complaints that came following a switch to well water in 2011 and started a nanofiltration system on Oct. 9 that has since reduced water hardness by half — near where levels were when water was being taken from the Nooksack River.

Calcium levels, which measure water hardness, have gone down from about 188 parts per million to 86 ppm, according to data recorded by the city. Levels from the Nooksack River hovered around 70 ppm.

The state approved the plan for a nanofiltration system in February of this year, and after one month of operation the system is working as city officials had hoped it would.

“It’s doing what we said it would do,” said Chad Bedlington, public works director.

Bedlington said they are still making adjustments to the water distribution and treatment to get the levels down to 70 ppm like it was years ago, but he said the difference from 70 ppm to 86 ppm would not be noticeable to the average customer. It is equivalent to one grain per one gallon of water.

“We’re trying to find that good set point where people are happy with the water quality,” he said.

The water softener cost $2 million, and the city borrowed from the sewer fund and the water fund’s cash reserves to pay for the system. Bedlington estimated that operating costs for the new system could be $70,000 per year. Rates for customers are set for the next year, and no change has been proposed.

Ferndale residents had previously complained to the city about calcium spots on their dishes and said clothes did not wash well due to the hard water, Bedlington said. Some noticed a difference in taste.

Sam Taylor, city clerk, said residents are now reporting the water to be softer and are making positive comments to the city about its quality.

Bedlington said 90 percent of the water system has been turned over with the newly treated water, and and the system will be completely turned over within the next couple weeks. He said they will post information on the city’s website with more results.