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Suez hopes 'ice pigging' solves the Boise bench's discolored water problem


Brown water coming out of taps across the Boise Bench has been an issue for years.

"The source water that we use in the Boise Bench is very mineral-rich,” said Katie Birkenstein, communications coordinator with Suez Water Idaho.

Those naturally occurring minerals are a primary cause of water discoloration.

The utility's latest effort to improve the problem involves a method never before used in the Treasure Valley, called 'ice-pigging.'

"We became aware of it about six weeks ago, and we've been working full blast since then to try and prepare for it," Birkenstein said.

Suez Water Company says it will flush 19 miles of water mains on the Boise bench with a semi-frozen salt water slurry that's more effective at scrubbing deposits from the inside of pipes than flushing with regular water.

It also requires users to keep water off for about a day — or risk the salty slurry getting into their appliances and faucets.

"The solution is not harmful to humans or animals, it is just a salt solution," Birkenstein explained. "But we don't want that salt, and then the debris being pulled out of the mainlines, to be pulled into a home plumbing system."

The pigging process began last week and will continue through early December. Birkenstein said the results of the process, which has been used by Suez in the eastern United States and internationally, can last about a decade before needing to be repeated.

"We are hopeful that the results will be outstanding," she said.

Because of the complex network of supply lines being flushed, some residents may be impacted multiple days.

Customers are getting mailings, door hangers and phone call alerts before the day they need to keep water off. The utility says the best way to stay up to date is to make sure your phone number is linked to your account online.

There’s a map of impacted areas at www.mysuezwater.com.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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