Students and professors who spent last Saturday in either Lane or Kendall hall are well aware of the six-hour water outage caused by city maintenance.
Over the last several weeks Hillsdale’s Board of Public Utilities turned off water around the city several times to replace water valves. Following each replacement, the board issued a boil notice, requiring residents to boil their water for 48 hours to ensure its consumption safety. Although the city declared all water safe, the areas affected were all near the construction on Fayette, West, Manning, and College streets.
The board discovered the need for valve replacements during its construction at the intersection of Fayette St. and West St. One of the construction workers who was operating the valve turned it off, resulting in intense leakages. Once turned back on, the board decided to replace it to address damages.
To replace water valves, Waste and Wastewater Superintendent Bill Briggs said he had to turn off all the water in the system, which caused a complete loss of water pressure. Whenever the pressure drops below 20 pounds per square inch, the city sends out a boil water notice.
“It’s just a precaution so nothing gets into the water that could harm anybody,” Briggs said. “And that involves taking samples around the system where the pressure has been dropped after you turn it back on.”
Collected samples are incubated for two consecutive 24-hour tests to check for harmful bacteria. Briggs said the samples all came back safe. During this time the board sent out a notice to residents recommending they boil water for at least fifteen minutes before consumption to kill possible contamination. The boil notice didn’t apply to water for bathing or washing clothes.
Test results for Saturday’s sampling came back at 2 p.m., which meant facilities in Lane and Kendall didn’t have drinkable water for the majority of the work day.
To help residents prepare for water outages, Briggs said the board employed a number of tactics around the city, including social media posts and website updates, as well as door-knocking in affected areas, and leaving door hangers. To notify the college Briggs reached out to Dave Billington, the college’s director of operation for facilities and capital projects, who informed affected professors and students.
Junior Sophia Spinazze lives off-campus in a townhouse on West St. She said she received an email from the college both times her water was turned off with ample time to prepare. Aside from minor inconveniences, Spinazze said it wasn’t much trouble going a couple days without drinkable tap water.
“The only thing was I didn’t workout on Tuesday because I didn’t know if I would have been able to shower,” Spinazze said.
Professor of Economics Gary Wolfram agreed the water outages posed little problem for him and other faculty members.
“It made no difference about whether I was in the office,” Wolfram said. “I brought a bottle of water. You could have gone to another building for water if you wanted. The fact that the water fountains had signs posted on them was a nice reminder.”
The city also conducts routine bacteria testing twice a month in 10 locations in town, usually during the first and third week. Briggs said these tests don’t typically require water outages.
Replacement is now complete and Briggs said the board doesn’t intend to issue boil notices in the foreseeable future.