COLUMBIA — Residents of Thornbrook and Millcreek Manor neighborhoods could be without clean water until Friday morning, depending on the results of bacterial contamination tests.
Columbia Water and Light issued a precautionary boil order Wednesday morning after a 16-inch water main broke around 10 p.m. Tuesday. The break caused low water pressure and Water and Light ordered residents to boil water to ensure that it was free from bacteria. Connie Kacprowicz, the department’s public information specialist, said the city was told lab results would be available in about 24 hours.
“The results should be in Thursday morning, but it may be until Friday that we take off the boil order,” Kacprowicz said.
Water and Light took 10 water samples from different areas Wednesday morning and will take another set of samples Thursday morning. The department requires two clean samples before it will call off a boil order.
Kacprowicz attributed the break to a soil shift. She said this region’s soil contains a large amount of clay and is susceptible to shifting, especially if there is a change in its temperature or moisture level.
Several residents of Thornbrook neighborhood came home to find news of the boil order posted on their front doors.
“I’m thankful for the boil order, even if it’s just precautionary,” Jennifer Coffman said.
Coffman read the notice taped to her door and debated whether or not to bathe her two-year-old child.
“They say baths and showers are OK, but if I can avoid the extra risk, well, maybe that’s good,” she said.
Coffman cited a different water outage about a month ago, but she doubts the two are related.
“I think the last one happened when someone was digging,” she said. “The water was only out for a few hours, and they didn’t order a boil.”
Winfred Phillips, another resident, heard about the boil order when he arrived home from work about 4 p.m.
“I took a shower this morning, but that wasn’t a problem,” he said. “I also made coffee, which was fine.”
The boil order advised customers to boil cooking and drinking water for three minutes prior to use. It also cautioned affected residents not to use ice from a household automatic icemaker and to remake ice using boiled water. To disinfect dishes and food contact surfaces, the order advised customers to immerse them for one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented bleach per gallon.
“Of course it’s an inconvenience not being able to use water or ice, but nothing more than that,” said Luke Heim, another Thornbrook resident.
Columbia Water and Light uses chlorine to disinfect the city’s water and a small amount, called a chlorine residual, remains in the water to fight bacteria. Water and Light saw it as necessary to order the boil, though the chlorine residual may have taken care of any bacteria resulting from the break.
“We didn’t want to take that for granted,” Kacprowicz said.
In addition to testing for bacteria, Water and Light will measure the amount of chlorine. When the chlorine residual successfully combats bacteria, the level of it recorded will decrease.
“If it drops then there was bacteria in the water,” she said.
The Water and Light Department will send out a press release when the test results are clear. It will also attempt to notify customers.