August 11, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Bay City may have found source of big water main break

Bay City — After three days of frustrating searching and perhaps 20 million gallons of drained water, Bay City officials said Monday they likely have found the source of a large water main break.

City Manager Rick Finn said at an afternoon news conference crews were turning off valves to a 24-inch water main that ruptured near the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The water made its way into an abandoned, 36-inch storm pipe that discharges into the Saginaw River, The Bay City Times reported.

Officials said the exact location of the rupture on the main hasn’t been found but water tested at the scene contained chlorine, leaving officials confident it was the correct main.

“There’s a lot of debris, and the rain is making it tough,” said Terry Kilburn, the city’s water and sewer manager. “We’ll be out there until it’s taken care of.”

Finn stressed the water-use emergency has not been lifted for the city of 35,000 and the surrounding county, and won’t until work is done on the main. Under the emergency, residents have been asked to avoid unnecessary water use and cut down on using water for personal hygiene.

The search for the break was extensive. Firefighters from neighboring townships drove Bay County roads in the hopes of finding flowing water. A state police helicopter surveyed farm fields and farmers were asked to check their fields for any unusual water. Crews also have been inspecting water mains that run under the Saginaw River to see if any of them is the source of the leak.

All Bay County residents are affected by the water emergency except residents in the city of Auburn, the village of Linwood and Frankenlust Township. Bay County residents who live in the Midland city limits aren’t affected.

Crews discovered Saturday there was a major water main break, officials said. Public works Director Dave Harran has said the city’s water reserves could be empty Monday unless crews can halt it.

On Sunday, the city said it was taking in water from the Saginaw Bay at a greater rate than the leak was discharging water.

Operations continued Sunday at some businesses that use water, including the downtown Totally Clean Coin Laundry.

“I guess it didn’t faze me at all,” said Savana West, who was in the middle of doing her laundry. “If we are going to run out of water … I’m going to need clean clothes for the rest of the week.”