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What to know about GLWA water main break: How long is it going to last?

BoilWater.jpg
U.S. Centers for Disease Control
A boil water advisory remains in place for seven communities totaling about 133,000 people served by the Great Lakes Water Authority after a water main broke.

Seven Michigan communities are still under a boil water advisory following a water main break near Port Huron on Saturday.

The break reduced water pressure in the system, which could allow for bacterial contamination. The Great Lakes Water Authority, which operates the broken water main, advised the 133,000 residents in the affected area to boil their water for at least a minute before drinking it, as well as for some other uses.

Initially, more than 900,000 people were told to boil their water. The authority later lifted a boil water advisory for several communities, saying the water pressure there did not fall below the 20 pounds-per-square-inch threshold for declaring a boil water advisory.

What communities still have a boil water advisory?

The areas the Great Lakes Water Authority still lists under a boil water advisory are: the Village of Almont, Bruce Township, Burtchville Township, Imlay City, City of Rochester, Shelby Township, and Washington Township, as well as one business in Greenwood and an industrial park in Romeo.

GLWA says while the advisory is in place, residents in those communities "should not drink the water without boiling it first. Residents must bring all water to a boil for at least one minute and then let it cool before using. Boiled, bottled, or disinfected water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and preparing food until further notice."

Officials say residents in those communities should also avoid watering their lawns white the advisory is in place.

Do I need to boil water when I bathe?

GLWA says that tap water may be used for bathing, showering and washing hands as long as people do not allow the water into their eyes, nose or mouth.

The water authority says boiled, bottled, or disinfected water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and preparing food.

Can I water my lawns?

GLWA is advising that anyone under a boil advisory avoid watering their lawns for the time being.

Some communities that are not under the advisory, like Rochester Hills, are also asking residents not to water their lawns.

"We are asking that irrigation usage is limited or not used at all as it puts extra stress on an already stressed system," the city said in a statement on its website.

What is a state of emergency?

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued a state emergency for Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland, and St. Clair counties due to the water main break.

“We are drawing on every resource we have and taking every action necessary to get impacted families the help they need,” Whitmer said. “On Saturday, I activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate our response efforts, and with today’s state of emergency declaration, we are ensuring that state resources will be available as long as the impacted communities need them."

The emergency declaration "has made available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts in the designated area," the governor's office said in an emailed news release. "The declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management, and Homeland Security Division ... to coordinate and maximize state efforts to assist."

How long is this going to last?

The Great Lakes Water Authority says boil water advisories will remain in place until tests show that the water is safe to drink.

New-120-Inch-Pipe-on-Delivery-Truck.jpg
Great Lakes Water Authority
A new 120-inch pipe sits on a delivery truck to replace a broken water main near Port Huron.

Officials have estimated that it will take three weeks to repair the broken and pipe and then test the water.

Suzanne Coffey, the water authority's CEO, spoke with Michigan Radio's Stateside on Monday.

"I don’t think from my professional experience that there’s any chance it’s going to be less than two weeks," Coffey said. "If they find something today, that was completely unexpected, it could be longer. But at this point we’re sticking with that same two week time frame."

"It’ll take us a week or so to disinfect and fill that pipe and flush that pipe and take the samples that are needed to make sure the water quality in the pipe is where it needs to be," she said. "It’s about a week to do the repair and a week to do the water quality work."

On Monday, the water authority said a replacement pipe section had arrived at the site of the break after being shipped from Texas.

What else do I need to know?

The Great Lakes Water Authority has been sharing updates on its website. Anyone looking for more information can reach out to GLWA Water Quality at waterquality@glwater.org or by calling 313-926-8102 or 313-926-8128.

GLWA has created a Frequently Asked Questions guide about the boil water advisory: https://www.glwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Boil-Water-Advisory-FAQ_2017_10_12.pdf

Briana Rice is a reporter/producer operating out of Detroit.
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