HOISINGTON — In a follow-up to Sunday afternoon’s equipment failure at Hoisington’s water tower, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has again issued a Boil Water Advisory for customers on city water. Loss of water pressure experienced as a result of the equipment failure may have resulted in a loss of chlorine residuals and increase the potential for bacterial contamination, according to an alert issued by the Hoisington Police Department Sunday night through the city’s Nixle alert system.
The equipment failure that occurred was two-fold. A failed solenoid valve caused the water feed to the city’s water tower to shut down sometime Sunday, City Manager Jonathan Mitchell told the Great Bend Tribune on Monday morning. More critical was the failure of the tower’s new programmable logic controller (PLC) to alert staff to the situation. The PLC is a ruggedized industrial computer designed for reliability in environments considered harsher than average. It is essentially “the brain” of the water tower. When working properly, the PLC would have issued an alarm when the water level in the tower had dropped to 26 feet, Mitchell said. This did not occur, and it wasn’t until customers began calling to report a loss of pressure at their homes that the city became aware there was an issue.
An electrician was called and staff worked to pinpoint the problem. Repairs were made, and pressure to the tower was restored manually, a process that lasted throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Until a new solenoid valve is secured, the pressure will continue to be monitored and the water feed will be operated manually, Mitchell said.
All water entering the water tower was and continues to be chlorinated at the well site but a Boil Water Advisory is a precautionary measure issued whenever pressure is lost. Regardless of whether the public water supplier or KDHE announced a Boil Water Advisory, only KDHE can issue the rescind order following testing at a certified laboratory.
Because of the Martin Luther King holiday, the offices of the KDHE were closed Monday, delaying when the city’s water can be tested. Mitchell is considering sending a staff member directly to the offices of the KDHE Tuesday to acquire a water testing kit, and will have it sent to the KDHE lab as soon as possible. In addition, the city has ordered new solenoid valves and will have a spare on hand in order to avoid any further problems of this sort in the future, he said.
Sunday’s Boil Water Advisory was the second such warning issued for Pawnee Rock this month. The first one was issued on Jan. 7 when KDHE officials said the city could not maintain the minimum required chlorine residual. Failure to maintain required chlorine residual levels may put the system at risk for bacterial contamination. After repairs were made and lab samples collected by the city indicated no evidence of bacteriological contamination, KDHE rescinded that advisory on Jan. 10.
After spending more than $100,000 to upgrade the PLC in recent months, Mitchell is disappointed that no alarms were issued during the latest event. He contacted the manufacturer of the PLC, which is working to determine what caused the failure and to resolve the issue.
Mitchell noted the city is fortunate to have dedicated staff that is eager to ensure a quick response in the event of emergencies of this sort, and he is proud of their efforts.
The following precautions issued by the KDHE are advised until further notice:
• If your tap water appears dirty, flush the water lines by letting the water run until it clears.
• Boil water for one minute prior to drinking or food preparation or use bottled water.
• Dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker.
• Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.
• Water used for bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing so that water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult their physicians.
According to an alert issued by the KDHE Monday morning, the advisory took effect on Jan. 19 and will remain in effect until the conditions that placed the system at risk of bacterial contamination are resolved.
Consumers with questions are encouraged to contact the water system or KDHE, 785-296-5514. For consumer information visit KDHE’s PWS Consumer Information webpage: http://www.kdheks.gov/pws/emergencyresponse/water_disruption.htm
Restaurants and other food establishments that have questions about the impact of the boil water advisory on their business can contact the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s food safety & lodging program at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 785-564-6767.