The Boil Water Advisory affecting parts of Oakland County has been lifted

Oct 25, 2017
Originally published on October 30, 2017 4:37 pm

On Tuesday, October 24, the Great Lakes Water Authority issued a boil water advisory for parts of Oakland County after a 48-inch water main broke late Monday night.

The boil water advisory ended for all communities on Monday, October 30. 

Michigan Radio followed this story, and updated it as events unfolded and as new information was made available. Scroll down and read up to see how the story unfolded.

Final Update: Monday October 30 at 10:15 a.m.

A final boil water advisory has been lifted following last week's water main break that affected about a dozen suburban Detroit communities.

The Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner's office issued the all-clear Monday morning for the northwest part of Farmington Hills, saying testing confirmed the water is safe to consume.

Officials say, however, that people should review steps that should be taken before water is used following a boil water advisory.

(Click here to review those steps.)

The Great Lakes Water Authority lifted the advisory Sunday for six other Oakland County communities and the rest of Farmington Hills. Other affected communities had the advisory lifted earlier.

Officials say more than 300,000 people were affected by last Monday's break in Farmington Hills. Crews last week installed new sections of a broken 48-inch (122-centimeter) line.

Sunday, October 29 at 2:15 pm:

Effective immediately, the boil water advisory has been lifted for most of the Oakland County communities still affected, except for a portion of Farmington Hills.  

Testing has confirmed the water is safe to drink and cook with, the Great Lakes Water Authority says, for the following areas: 

 "Commerce TownshipOrchard Lake VillageWalled LakeWest Bloomfield TownshipWixom, Novi (the area bounded by 14 Mile on the north, 8 mile on the south, Napier on the west and Haggerty on the east), and Farmington Hills (with the exception of the section in northwest Farmington Hills affected by low pressure on Friday.)

Parts of northwest Farmington Hills is still under the advisory, probably until Monday morning, after that area lost water pressure Friday night and crews had to start a new set of water quality tests. 

The advisory was issued Monday night, after a large water main broke on 14 Mile Road, causing a loss of water pressure in the transmission system. 

"The boil water advisory originally impacted just over 300,000 people in 11 Oakland County communities," a spokesperson for the Great Lakes Water Authority said in a statement Sunday. "Now that access to clean, safe drinking water is restored, GLWA will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the break."

Sue McCormick, the CEO of the Great Lakes Water Authority, issued the following statement as well. 

“I’d like to extend a huge thank you to our GLWA crews who have worked tirelessly over
the past week to repair this unexpected break as quickly as possible. Without your aroundthe-
clock work, we would not have been able to restore service today,” she said. “I also want to thank the residents and businesses who were impacted by this unprecedented break—your patience has been greatly appreciated. We understand how much this impacted your lives and apologize for the disruption this
caused. Last, but certainly not least, GLWA wants to thank Oakland County officials, as well
as our customer communities for their strong partnership throughout this incident.”

Saturday, October 28 at 2:45 p.m.:

The boil water advisory for a portion of northwest Farmington Hills will be in effect until at least Monday morning, according to Oakland Co. officials. The timeline for lifting the advisory in that specific area was pushed back after a pressure regulating valve malfunctioned and caused a loss of water pressure Friday night. You can see a map of the affected area and other updates on the county's website.

The boil water advisory for the rest of Farmington Hills north of I-696, Commerce Township, Orchard Lake Village, Walled Lake, West Bloomfield Township, Wixom and part of Novi is still expected to be lifted before the end of the weekend.

Friday, October 27 at 11:55 a.m.:

The Great Lakes Water Authority now says the boil water advisory has been lifted for Bloomfield Township and Keego Harbor.

The Oakland County Health Division has released this press release on precautions to take even after the boil water advisory has been lifted.

Communities still under the boil water advisory include Commerce Township, part of Farmington Hills, Orchard Lake Village, Walled Lake, West Bloomfield Township, Wixom and part of Novi.

Friday, October 27 at 11:15 a.m.:

Rochester Hills and Oakland Township lifted their boil water advisory yesterday afternoon.

Once the main break area was isolated, the Great Lakes Water Authority could start re-routing water and restore water pressure to some areas.

Rochester Hills and Oakland Township were two cities that had pressure restored early, meaning they could start system flushing and water quality testing on their own. Depending on their location within the larger water system, some other cities could do the same before the GLWA lifts the advisory altogether.
 
But Oakland County's Health Division warns that even when that happens, residents still need to take precautions. Oakland County health officer Leigh-Anne Stafford says residents "cannot wash fruit, vegetables, and food preparation surfaces, as well as use the ice or water from refrigerators until steps are followed to flush internal water systems and devices."
 

Thursday, October 26 at 3:00 p.m.:

The Great Lakes Water Authority says a second leak was discovered during repair work of the 48-inch transmission main yesterday. That leak has reportedly been repaired, but the timeline of water quality tests has been shifted.

As such, the boil water advisory may not be lifted until early next week, although water pressure has been returned to most affected areas. Please note that even if your water pressure has returned, it is still vital you boil your water for at least one minute and let cool before drinking.

In a statement, GLWA apologized for the "continued inconvenience this situation is creating for the residents of impacted communities."

Wednesday, October 25 at 5:20 p.m.  

As of Wednesday afternoon, it still doesn't look like the boil water advisory will be lifted before the end of the day Friday, after crews excavated the the broken section of the 48-inch pipe last night and new pieces are being installed today. 

Once those new pieces are in place, workers still have to test water pressure, flush and disinfect the water main, and test the water quality for 48 hours. If they get the all clear, then the boil water advisory will be lifted. 

As of today, all the affected communities have their water pressure back, according to the Great Lakes Water Authority, except for about 35,000 people in Farmington Hills. To be clear: even if your water pressure is back, you still shouldn't drink the water without boiling it first, until the advisory is lifted. 

Hospitals are reopening their clinics (though still delaying some surgeries) and most schools have reopened as well. 

We still don't know for sure why this happened. What we do know, is a 47-year-old pressurized, underground pipe (which is apparently mid-lifespan and didn't have any previous issues) on the border of Farmington Hills and West Bloomfield started leaking massive amounts of water on Monday, flooding into the road and impacting more than 300,000 residents in Oakland County. Here's what Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek learned at a GLWA press conference Tuesday: 

Officials say a “power interruption” at a service facility around the time of the break may have “tripped the pumps” and lowered pressure, but for now that’s just a theory. GLWA says it will do a full investigation into what happened after the problem is resolved.

Original post from Tuesday, October 24:

What to do if you're affected by the advisory

The advisory calls for residents to use boiled, bottled or disinfected water for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and preparing food until further notice. The most detailed FAQ we've been able to find is here. 

The affected communities include: 

Click here to learn more about what to do during the boil water advisory

So far, at least Novi, West Bloomfield, and Bloomfield Township have set up water distribution centers.

Novi has eight centers for the "needy and elderly" throughout the affected area, including stations set up specifically to provide non-drinking water for flushing toilets.

In West Bloomfield, a water distribution center has been set up at Keith Sports Park at 2750 Keith Rd. Citizens must provide their own containers for the drinking water, which is limited to 10 gallons per visit.

The Senior Center in Bloomfield Township is distributing drinking water, although ID is required.

The official response

Watch the video below to see workers repairing the water main break:

Mark Hansell is the Special Programs Chief with the Oakland County Public Health Division.

He says that his division, the Great Lakes Water Authority, and the Oakland Water Resources Commissioner's Office opened an emergency operation center Monday night and have been working to get the message about the advisory out to all affected citizens and businesses.

“[The advisory] does update and change quite frequently,” he says, “so we definitely want to tell people in those affected cities, villages, or townships to touch base with the websites and social media from those cities for the latest, greatest updates in their area.”

Hansell adds that people and businesses may be experiencing low water pressure, may have no water at all, or may be some discoloration in their water.

It’s important that those in affected areas either use bottled water or boil water for at least one minute before use - even if the tap water is clear.

“The reason for the boiled water is any time we have a rupture in the water system that transports our drinking water, it can allow the introduction of certain contaminants,” says Hansell. “Primarily, we’re worried about microbes, bacteria, and things that are naturally present in the soil that just being exposed to the air, can get into the transportation system of our drinking water.”

Boiling the water reduces the likelihood of getting sick from those contaminants.

"Some symptoms related to water-borne illness mimic a lot of other illnesses, you know, even the common cold or a food-borne illness, where it can be nausea, vomiting, you can have some cramps. You can be with or without fever," he says. "And if you’re experiencing any of those symptoms, certainly you’d want to contact your health care provider."

Hospitals react to the loss of water

Margaret Klobucar is the COO of Providence Park Hospital in Novi, which lost its water at 4:30 a.m. Monday. She says that the hospital can care for their patients, although as of Tuesday, they were still sending ambulances to other hospitals and not performing elective surgeries, “just to be on the safe side.”

Four dialysis patients were transferred to Southfield, but no other patients have been moved so far.

Klobucar says the hospital often runs drills to prepare for this exact situation, and is currently relying on bottled water, jugs of water, and wells underneath the hospital.

“I anticipate that we will continue as much normal operation as we can and as we have,” adds Klobucar. “And I don’t foresee any issues at this point.”

Klobucar emphasizes that patients of Providence Park Hospital are safe and in good hands.

“And we will continue to provide the best care possible.”

We're updating this story as it develops.

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