WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Over 40,000 people were left without clean drinking water.
This was after Watertown’s major water line break on October 19. The burst happened right outside of the City’s water treatment facility, which subsequently cut off all public water.
“Once it burst and the pressure came back, the valves to shut off the backflow failed,” Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith said during a briefing following the break. “Worst possible place you can have a break because it affected the entire system.”
This break prompted the response of local and state agencies.
New York State Lieutenant Governor Anthony Delgado, Division of Homeland Security Commissioner Jackie Bray, and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum all addressed the issue immediately. Many assisted at distribution sites in the days that followed.
However, the City started a new week on October 23 with improvements.
“[Over the] weekend has been filling the reservoirs, so the water crews have been out doing that,” Mix explained. “The filtration plants have been keeping an eye on how they’ve been filling. Luckily, we had no breaks when we opened up all the bells, and we started testing the water.”
Tests from 20 different sites all passed Department of Health standards. This allowed the City to lift all boil water and conservation advisories.
The Watertown City School District reopened, Samaritan Health began restoring services and businesses could function again.
But could a break like this repeat itself?
According to the City, the pipe that burst was over five decades old, and Mix said the water department does not have the budget to replace the entire system.
“The capacity to do much more than one or two projects a year is really hampered by the fact that all the funds have to come from the water fund, which are user payments,” Mix said. “We will continue to do what we can within the budgetary constraints that we’ve got.”
For now, officials are just thankful for those who helped during the emergency.
“It helped us get things done very quickly, and get back to normal,” Mix expressed. “So we’re very thankful for everybody who stepped up and helped.”
Although water has been restored, City officials recommend allowing taps to run until a detectable change in temperature is felt. If discolored or dirty water comes out of the tap, officials said to let taps run until the water clears.
However, if issues persist, call the Water Distribution team at (315) 785-7757.