Michigan fixes water problem
The city of Michigan, N.D., has found and fixed its water system problem, a bad valve in the sewer system, Mayor Allen Orwick said Tuesday. Once the water mains are flushed and state health officials say the water is cool, people can drink up again.
The city of Michigan, N.D., has found and fixed its water system problem, a bad valve in the sewer system, Mayor Allen Orwick said Tuesday.
Once the water mains are flushed and state health officials say the water is cool, people can drink up again.
"We turned a huge corner today," said Orwick, the relief evident in his voice. He and other city leaders have been working long days and nights to keep things going, and find the problem and fix it.
It began a week ago after 5 inches or more of rain fell in two shots two days apart on the Nelson County city of about 300 that is about 50 miles west of Grand Forks on U.S. Highway 2.
The city's sewer system became overloaded, partly as a result of infiltration into old, leaky pipes from the heavy pressure of groundwater, and the lift station couldn't handle the load. City officials shut off the water to the city to give relief and residents had to do without for several days, getting maybe an hour per evening of the water system being turned on.
State officials sent aid, as did Wal-Mart: the Devils Lake store sent over a pallet of bottled water for residents, then the Grand Forks store sent an entire semi-truck load of gallon jugs, 24 pallets worth, all the way from Wisconsin for Michigan residents, Orwick said.
Meanwhile, City Council members, Orwick and others worked night and day to keep things going and find the problem.
"This afternoon, we confirmed the problem with the sewer system, and it has been repaired," Orwick said Tuesday evening.
"We had a bad gate valve in a pipe from the lift station to the lagoon. So, we bypassed that and added a pipe over the embankment into the lagoon."
It was a long-term fault that was exposed by the heavy load of water after the rains May 22 and May 24, Orwick said.
The city already was in the middle of a $1.7 million project to replace and reline the water system's pipes and would have replaced the valve, which dates to 1994, anyway, he said.
Many of the city's underground pipes date back more than 60 years, some are clay and in bad shape. Once the renovation project, which is using $1 million in federal stimulus funds, is completed by the end of the summer, more of the pipe will be plastic or will be lined with a rubber bladder heated to become a solid seal inside the old pipe, he said.
The lagoon, damaged by years of too-much groundwater, will be repaired, too. The bypass installed this week was going to be part of the renovation, anyway, Orwick said.
The water was turned on for good Monday morning, good for washing clothes and bodies and the lines were flushed Tuesday evening. But it has not been cleared for drinking yet, and a boil order still is in place.
"We are in the process of flushing the water mains, and once that is completed, we will be able to start testing for bacteria and once we pass the testing the state department of health, residents will be able to start drinking tap water."
Because the city was "proactive," and shut off the water right away, everyone's basements stayed dry, and no one experienced sewer back-up, Orwick said.
But when a water system's pipes are empty for a week, it means bacteria have a chance to set up shop, he said.
The city, which had 345 people counted in the 2000 U.S. Census, now has fewer than 300, with about 180 homes, Orwick said.
The best case scenario is the water will be copacetic Thursday some time, after state testing is completed in a Grand Forks lab, he said.
City officials will notify residents when it's safe to drink the water again.
Until then, the Wal-Mart water jugs are free for the taking at the downtown veterans park.
Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org