Basic water service returned to most of Owensboro by Tuesday night after catastrophic failures burst two large water mains near Owensboro Municipal Utilities’ Plant A on Fourth Street, but some work remains for the utility before all is back to normal.
Most OMU customers within the city limits were lifted from a boil water order around 6 p.m. Wednesday, but areas outisde the city and a few isolated spots near the break site were still restricted. The boil water order was placed after the break for all areas served by OMU, Southeast Daviess County Water District, East Daviess County Water District, West Daviess County Water District and Whitesville Waterworks.
Sonya Dixon, spokesperson for OMU, said several samples were taken from the system early Wednesday morning after it was flushed and refilled, but time and a green light from the state Division of Water was required before the public utility could guarantee its water was safe to consume.
“It takes about 18 hours before the tests can be completed,” Dixon said. “When we receive those results, we will share with the Division of Water, and they will tell us if we can lift the order.”
The samples are essentially a culture collection that is tested over time to determine whether harmful bacteria was present in the water. Dixon said OMU doesn’t expect any issues with the system’s water quality, as it hasn’t found any more problems after the leaks were fixed.
To help clear up confusion about restrictions under the order, Green River District Health Department fielded questions and distributed a guide about boil water orders. The following are some helpful tips from GRDHD:
• Boil water for three minutes and cover with a lid for storage.
• Even filtered water should be boiled. Most household and appliance filters are not capable of removing bacteria and viruses.
• Boiled water should be used in preparation of all food and drinks, including the cleaning of preparation services.
• Breastfeeding of infants is recommended, but ready-to-use formula made with bottled water is the second best option. Boiled water can be used for formula with bottled water isn’t available.
• Showers are okay, but swallowing water should be strongly avoided. Teeth should be brushed with bottled water.
• Water sanitized through boiling should be given to pets and animals.
Clay Horton, director of GRDHD, said the department had to borrow some environmental health experts from surrounding counties to do required inspections on local restaurants. Before a restaurant could operate during the advisory, Horton said they had to check off on an alternative business plan.
“Each restaurant that has been inspected has a green placard letting customers know that there might be some alterations form the normal menu, but it ready for business,” Horton said. “We pushed out a mass email to all of the owners we had contacts for, but some people were used to this from past experience.”
To receive a placard, restaurants had to follow a checklist of advisories like using bagged ice and serving bottled or canned drinks. They also had to submit alternative business plans that listed menu alterations and sources for items like ice.
Bottled water was also distributed throughout the city Wednesday by The Salvation Army.
Andy Ball, director of Daviess County Emergency Management Agency, said the American Red Cross was on call to deliver water, but EMA didn’t receive any requests Wednesday.
“We did get requests Tuesday and made deliveries to nursing homes, homeless shelters and the Roosevelt House,” Ball said.
Daviess County EMA also inquired about the need for a shelter during the water emergency, but Ball said there wasn’t enough responses to open a shelter.
Most homes served by the plant now have some level of water pressure, but Dixon said there were about 300 customers near OMU's Plant A Water Treatment Plant that could experience service issues during extended repair work. OMU also advised customers in that area would be without water for around seven hours on Thursday, July 12, starting at 1 a.m. as a part of a planned outage to help facilitate repairs.
OMU crews and contractors continued to work at the Fourth Street location on Wednesday and are expected to remain at the scene of the break through Thursday, July 12, and possibly longer. Dixon said there was still ongoing discussions about whether the road would be opened to partial traffic, but OMU is requesting commuters normally passing through the area take an alternative route for the safety of workers. Jacob Dick, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org,Twitter: @jdickjournalism