Mineral found in Battle Creek water may be harmful to infants


Leaders in a Michigan city said babies should not drink the tap water in the area after recent tests turned up high levels of mineral that can be harmful to young kids.

The Calhoun County Public Health Department detected high levels of manganese in the water and parents rushed to fire stations around Battle Creek to get their hands on free bottled water.

"First and foremost, I want to say we are not in an emergency situation,” Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury said.

The bottled water was gone almost as quick as crews could stack it and grocery store shelves had to be restocked. The warning is new territory for local health officials who have never dealt with the issue before.

“It kind of made me nervous. I'm a first-time mom so I wasn't sure about what was going on,” Brittany Duboise said.

Manganese is a metal found naturally in food and water, but it can be dangerous to infants if consumed at high levels.

“Hopefully they can treat it fast,” Courtney Vanderploet said.

Doctors said elevated levels of manganese can cause developmental issues in the brain of infants, who can't process the mineral like adults.

Any water used for an infant's food needs to come from a bottle until further notice.

"One, we do not know at this point how long this level of manganese has been in the water. Second, we don't know if the samples we took from fire hydrants are representative of the entire water supply,” said Dr. William Nettleton, Calhoun County Public Health Department medical director.

The areas affected include: Battle Creek, Springfield, Emmett Township, Pennfield Township and Bedford Township.

Fluery said the high levels of manganese were discovered during routine fire hydrant flushing.

"We believe that may have stirred up some elements that have been in the system since they existed, but this is new territory,” Fleury said.

Cases of water will be available until the presence of the mineral clear up.

“My sister has five kids so we'll be here quite often,” Duboise said.

Public health officials said there's no reason to panic and said most people are OK to drink the tap water, but warn that infants should not.

For more information about manganese and your health, please contact the Calhoun County Public Health Department hotline at 269-969-6852. This hotline will provide general information and contact information, and allow callers to reach health department staff Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You also can call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services at 800-648-6942, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The city also has set up a hotline, 269-966-3311, which will provide the information here, and connect callers with Department of Public Works staff, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The water distribution will be at the city's fire stations and at these three locations: Battle Creek City Hall, 10 N. Division St. – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday Battle Creek Department of Public Works, 150 S. Kendall St. – 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday Battle Creek Police Department, 20 N. Division St. – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per weekThe times from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week at city fire stations 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Fire Station 1, 195 E. Michigan Ave. Fire Station 2, 145 N. Washington Ave. Fire Station 3, 222 Cliff St. Fire Station 4, 8 S. 20th St. Fire Station 5, 1170 W. Michigan Ave. Fire Station 6, 2401 Capital Ave. SWYou can also go to the Battle Creek city website for information about water distribution.