Washburn city still under boil order

Friday, August 17, 2007

Washburn city residents found themselves without water Sunday evening after the pump on the city's lone well broke down and water pressure dwindled to a trickle.

The system-wide loss of pressure resulted in the issuance of a water boil order by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on Monday morning.

While city officials waited for Rolla-based Flynn Drilling to arrive to work on the pump, Southwest Rural Water District offered a temporary fix. The city was able to hook up to the water district's system by connecting to a water main that runs up Highway 37 and was within 400 feet of one of the city's water mains.

The connection was made on Farm Road 2240, known as Washburn Prairie Road, and involved the addition of an aboveground temporary water line that will remain functional until the city's well is back on line. The water district and city received approval for this connection from DNR.

City and water district personnel worked from 11 a.m. to around 4 p.m. on Monday to complete the connection. By the time Washburn residents began arriving home from work, they had water.

"Everybody was able to use the bathroom and shower Monday night," said Raelene McCurdy, manager of the Southwest Rural Water District. "I have had a lot of thank you calls today from Washburn residents."

The well pump was fixed on Tuesday but was not scheduled to begin running until Wednesday morning. The city will also have to chlorinate the water tank and flush out the lines before sending water samples to DNR for testing.

According to DNR officials, low water pressure can allow contamination to enter a water distribution system. The boil order, which took effect on Aug. 13, will remain in effect until the well pump is functioning and city water samples indicate no contamination is present.

City?Clerk Sue Rose said she did not know exactly how long that process will take but assures citizens that the city is working quickly to get the situation resolved.

"We'll do the best we can as fast as we can," said Rose.

The American Red Cross responded to Washburn's emergency by providing a 250-gallon water buffalo and a pallet of one-gallon water jugs. These arrangements were coordinated by Barry County Emergency Management Director David Compton.

In issuing Monday's boil order, DNR officials offered a list of precautions Washburn residents should follow. These include:

• Boiling water vigorously for three minutes prior to using it for cooking or drinking.

• Disinfecting food contact surfaces (dishes) by immersing them for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallons of water.

• Disposing of ice cubes and remaking with water that has been boiled.

• Continuing to boil all water that is to be used for cooking and drinking until the cause of the contamination has been corrected.

• Letting water cool sufficiently before drinking.

Water used for bathing does not have to be boiled.

Although the city has not had any previous problems with the well pump, Rose said the pump is part of an aging city water system that is scheduled for improvements in the coming year.

The pump that quit working is 20 years old and serves the city's only working well. The fact that Washburn is dependent on one well and does not have a back-up water source is one of the reasons the city pursued a $1.6 million bond issue and $1.4 million low interest loan to finance a major water system improvement project that is slated for completion by July of 2008.

The project will include construction of a new deep water supply well and a 120-gallon storage tank. It also will upgrade water lines throughout the city system to improve water flow and water pressure.

Due to uncertainty on when the water system will back on line and when the boil order will be lifted, the Southwest R-V School District has postponed the first day of school until Wednesday, Aug. 22. School was slated to begin today (Wednesday, Aug. 15).

The date for a back-to-school open house has also been rescheduled due to the water problems. That event will now take place on Monday, Aug. 20 from 5 to 7 p.m.

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