By Paul T. Choate
Oct. 10, 2012. Yesterday, due to a water main break resulting in a pressure loss near Pride Drive in Boone, the Town of Boone Public Utilities Department issued a boil advisory warning citizens to boil all water used for consumption to prevent the risk of infection. That advisory is expected to be lifted at 1:30 p.m.
Public Utilities Director Rick Miller said the break was caused when subcontractors of PF Plumbing accidentally hit the water line while working on replacing a sewer main near the intersection of U.S. 321 and Boone Heights Drive. Town of Boone utility crews were deployed to fix the water line and was able to repair it last night.
Miller said the ban was put in place due to the risk of water contamination from something called “back siphonage.”
“When they hit it, it created a pressure drop in the water system. What that means is the water was coming towards the leak and away from the high spots. When that happens you have a situation that can occur called back siphonage,” Miller said. He gave an example of back siphonage as if someone is washing their car and leaves the hose in the bucket of soapy water. If there is no back protection on the hose, it could pull in the soapy water, and Miller said that the damaged water line could have potentially pulled in contamination.
Even though it was not known for sure whether the town’s water had been contaminated, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) required that a boil advisory be put into effect.
“This is the first one we’ve ever had to do, to be honest, so it has been an adventure,” Miller said.
Miller said there are about three tests on the water to go as of noon today, and that he anticipates the boil advisory to be lifted between 1-1:30 p.m. this afternoon barring any setbacks.
Asked the level of concern he had sensed from town residents, Miller said, “I got a lot of calls with concerns about why the boil order was issued. I wouldn’t say it was panic, but there was curiosity as to [why an order this time when there have been breaks in the past]. This one was just bad enough that it met the criteria through NCDENR that we had to do it.”
Also, Hardin Park and Watauga High School dismissed students at 9 a.m. today due to water problems with the Town of Boone water supply. The afterschool program at Hardin Park will also be closed today. The other schools are not affected by this issue and will operate on a regular schedule today. The middle school playoff games at WHS are canceled for today.
According to Watauga County Schools Public Information Director Marshall Ashcraft, Watauga County schools did not get notice about the water problems until about 7 a.m. By the time the decision was made to close school, buses were already brining kids in. He said the decision was made to close school to best prevent the risk of any students coming into contact with the potentially contaminated water.
Due to the buses having already brought the kids to the school, a school day will be counted for both WHS and Hardin Park, and will not create logistical calendar problems of those schools being on a different schedule.
Reports are coming in that some area businesses and churches are being forced to close as well, but nothing has been confirmed. Stay turned for closure reports as more information comes available.
Have information on a business or church closure? Let us know at [email protected].