NORFOLK — Long-standing problems with drinking water at a local prison have allegedly gone unaddressed, and a treatment plant ordered by the state several years ago is still not operational.

Nearly half the water samples at MCI-Norfolk since 2011 show elevated levels of manganese, according to a report in The Boston Globe that reviewed state records. The story appeared Saturday on the newspaper’s website.

While the mineral is naturally occurring and found in many foods, it can be dangerous at high levels over an extended time span, possibly leading to tremors, slowed speech and other neurological disorders.

Nearly half MCI-Norfolk’s approximately 1,500 inmates are serving life sentences.

That’s more than any state prison, and some prisoners are blaming the water for their health problems.

Prisoners for years have complained about the water quality, and the prison water system failed in 2011, leading to the state Department of Environmental Protection to fine the prison and order a new water treatment system.

The system is still being built, leading to prisoners and their advocates to question the safety of the water, the Globe reported.

State environmental officials counter the water is safe, contending most samples overall are in compliance with drinking water standards.

Prison officials say the plant delays were the result of bids exceeding budget.

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