Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

Boil advisory issued

January 5, 2006

First it was a break in the water line from Lawrence to Baldwin. Then, a valve malfunctioned, as did an alarm system that should have notified the city of problems. It left Baldwin low on water and boil advisory in effect for water used to drink or cook with.

And, all this excitement happened Sunday, New Year's Day. The problem with the valve wasn't discovered until Tuesday, when city workers returned from the holidays. Water pressure was low.

"Happy New Year," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman Tuesday after learning of the problem. "The break in the line was between Lawrence and Baldwin on New Year's Day. That was fixed, but the valve malfunctioned afterward. We didn't know that with nobody here on Monday."

The valve was repaired at about 4 p.m. Tuesday. The low water pressure that parts of Baldwin had experienced that day came back. But, Dingman said it would take all night Tuesday to get the water pressure back where it should be. That happened.

"Everything is back working the way it should," he said Wednesday morning.

Also, because the water towers got so low, the boil advisory had to be put in place.

"The towers are low enough that pressure has fallen," he said Tuesday. "That's when contaminates can be in there."

Under the boil advisory, residents are to boil all water used for drinking or cooking. Water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil which should be sustained for a minimum of one minute. The suggestions for boiling water came from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

"Due to the significant drop in pressure within the city's water distribution system, and the potential for bacteria to enter the system, the city and KDHE have issued a boil water advisory as a precautionary measure," said Dingman. "The boil water advisory will remain in effect until further notice, but it is anticipated that it could be two to the three days until the water system can be sufficiently checked for contaminants and the water determined safe to drink."

He said Wednesday morning that test samples would be taken at six locations in Baldwin Wednesday afternoon. Those samples will then be taken to KDHE for testing that takes at least 24 hours. KDHE will announce the lifting of the advisory, he said.

As a precaution, restaurants around Baldwin were closed at varying times Tuesday. Several closed early, but all were told by KDHE to close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Some reopened Wednesday, but were boiling water used for cooking.

"Yes, they shut us down last night," said Walt Faber, owner of Walt's Pizza Cafe in downtown Baldwin.

Faber was boiling water in preparation for Wednesday's lunch crowd in the morning. Other businesses also made adjustments, such as convenience store workers at Santa Fe Market, who brought in water to make coffee and tea with.

"I'm bringing in water from my house in Vinland and Frank (Foye, store owner) is bringing in water," said Angie Burke.

As a result of the water problems, Baker University canceled interterm classes at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

"Because of a shortage of water in campus facilities, Baker's main campus was closed," said Steve Rottinghaus, Baker spokesman.

Classes resumed Wednesday, but there were precautions taken.

"Students, faculty and staff have been instructed not to drink water on campus," said Rottinghaus. "Signs saying 'Don't Drink the Water' have been placed on water fountains. Also, the cafeteria used bottled water to prepare today's (Wednesday) meals."

Notification of the problem varied Tuesday. Most businesses received a news release from the city and calls were made to many places, such as nursing homes. But, not all daycare providers were notified.

"I am a licensed daycare provider," said Denise Kraft. "I only found out about the boil order later Tuesday afternoon when one of my parents called me. Very young children's immune systems often aren't fully developed and this could have caused, or may still have caused, some serious consequences."

Dingman said the city notified as many people, businesses and others as they could, but sees where the daycare notification is an issue.

"That's one of the things we talked about yesterday," he said of daycares. "We don't have a master list, which is problematic. I know we contacted the ones we knew of. The nursing homes were contacted very early."

The city's two water towers, which were constructed in the last few years, both have a capacity of 750,000 gallons of water. A warning system that monitors the towers evidently failed, Dingman said.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "We'll have to get the vendor in and trouble shoot it (the warning system). It was one of those things. They're checking the system. It's a computer program. They'll have to trouble shoot it and see what the issue is."

Ordinarily, the problem would have been spotted Monday morning, but city staff didn't work because of the holiday.

"There's a notification system, but it didn't work," Dingman said of the computer program. "If it had, we would have been notified. It can also be blamed on the day off. The thing should have notified us Monday. If it hadn't been a day off, we would have known because we routinely monitor it. Bill (Wynegar) looked at it Tuesday and it was a problem."

As for the water line break itself, it occurred southeast of Lawrence, but wasn't in the Baker Wetlands. It was about two miles east of the wetlands. It was reported to the city and crews shut the water supply valve off from Lawrence to repair the pipe. After the repairs were made, the valve was turned back on, but a bushing inside it evidently broke and water did not start flowing back to Baldwin as expected.

"That's the thing. The valve from the operator's stand point worked because it opened," said Dingman. "It was internal. The bushing was broken. It had to be replaced yesterday (Tuesday)."

The Signal will have updates on the Web site at, including when the boil advisory is lifted.

The complete water boiling advisory is:

1. Boiling procedure: Bring water to a vigorous rolling boil and sustain boiling for a minimum of one minute. Boiling longer than three minutes may adversely affect the quality and taste of the water.

2. Use only boiled water for drinking, diluting fruit juices, and all other food preparation.

3. Dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker. Remake ice cubes with water that has been boiled.

4. Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for a least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.

5. Water used for bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing or using backyard pools so that water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult their physicians.

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