Ferndale residents unhappy with new water supply

FERNDALE, Wash. -- A recent switch in the city's water supply left plenty of Ferndale residents with a bad taste in their mouths.

For decades, Ferndale pumped its water from the Nooksack River, but last year it switched to underground wells. That move has some residents complaining that the new water source is undrinkable.

The change more than doubled the mineral levels in the water, so the tap water tastes much different than it did a year ago. Some even blame the water for breaking equipment.

Wes Herman said the new water took a toll on the coffee maker at his Ferndale coffee shop.

"It was an immediate red flag to us when we started seeing corrosion on our equipment," he said.

The city switched water supplies because of a looming rate increase. Prior to the switch, a consultant ran tests showing similar quality between the river and the well, but then mineral levels in the well water began to rise.

Experts say the added minerals in the well water are safe, but it does bring a wide range of concerns.

"There's times where the water tastes chalky, or maybe like you're sucking on a rock or licking a rock," said Mayor Gary Jensen.

The harder water can also leave stains on laundry and spots on dishes. Herman couldn't risk losing customers at his coffee shop while the city tries to correct the problem, so he ended up buying an expensive water purification system.

"In the end we had to pay about $10,000 to put in a full blown system," he said.

Not all of Ferndale's nearly 12,000 water customers are experiencing the problems, but city leaders are moving ahead with ways to soften the water for everyone. The city hopes to find a solution by March, and Jensen said it could cost customers close to $1 million to implement.