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Lightning pops fuse on water

A thunder and lightning storm last night caused a power outage in Ironton, which resulted in the depressurization of the city’s water system.

Friday, August 20, 1999

A thunder and lightning storm last night caused a power outage in Ironton, which resulted in the depressurization of the city’s water system.

Area residents served by the Ironton Water Works are asked to boil all water used for cooking, drinking or oral hygiene until further notice, said Jennifer Donahue, water superintendent.

"We have to go out and get water samples today," Ms. Donahue said. "It could be 24 to 48 hours before we get the results back, and we’re asking that the whole city of Ironton boil anything used for drinking, cooking and oral hygiene. It’s a precautionary measure. Anytime the system depressurizes, we want you to boil water until we can make sure everything’s OK."

The water plant’s power went out after 7 p.m. Thursday and stayed off until early morning, Ms. Donahue said.

"We have two clear wells, and clear well No. 1 lets water into clear well No. 2," she said. "We had a power failure and the valve stayed shut. It didn’t let any water into the basin and the basin went dry, which caused the depressurization."

This is a first for the water company, said John McCabe, city public services coordinator.

"On the old system it was a mechanical valve, and it used to stick open. This time it stuck closed," McCabe said. "It usually sticks open and we end up with water running down the streets."

Water company officials were alerted to the problem at about 10 p.m. and manually opened the valve about an hour after that, Ms. Donahue said.

But that’s not the only water problem the city experienced last night.

Ironton water crews worked to repair a broken 12-inch water line from about 7 p.m. last night to about 7 a.m. this morning.

"The water main broke prior to the other problem," McCabe said. "It was probably from age, not the storm. And the recent dry hot temperatures probably contributed to it. Hot weather causes a lot of expansion and contraction."

The water line, which is located below Allied Signal on South Third Street, serves about 20 customers from that end of town up to Coal Grove.

"It’s one of our larger lines," McCabe said. "The largest line we have in town is 24 inches, but normal lines are six inches."

All systems were operational as of this morning, but water company officials said it is better to take precautions with the water until it has been tested for bacteria.

"Anytime a system depressurizes, you run the risk of back flow," Ms. Donahue said. "For example, if you are filling a pool with a hose, if you lost water pressure and the hose was in the pool, the hose could possibly suck water from the pool back into the system.

"You can use the water for bathing and washing clothes, although you might want to check for brown water first. All they tell us is that the water should be boiled if it is to be used for oral hygiene, drinking or cooking."

The water company will inform people when it is safe to use the water again through the news media, Ms. Donahue said.