Downtown Detroit boil water advisory to last until mid-week, officials say

Ajene Mogiryo of Lakeshore Global Corporation, works on repairing the water main break in the parking lot of River Park Place Condominium at Larned St. and St. Maron Place on Sunday.

Detroit — City officials expect a boil water advisory for a large section of Detroit to last until at least mid-week, just as auto show festivities kick off at Cobo Center.

A water main break Sunday prompted the city to issue the boil water advisory in an area that stretches from the John C. Lodge Service Drive on the west to Mt. Elliott on the east, and from Interstate 75 to the north to the Detroit River to the south. This includes downtown.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials sent an update at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, saying: "Crews are working through Sunday evening into Monday to replace a 10-15 foot section of the water main."

The broken main is 42 inches and operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), water officials said.

The boil water advisory area stretches from the John C. Lodge Service Drive on the west to Mt. Elliott on the east, and from Interstate 75 to the north to the Detroit River to the south. This includes downtown.

The water authority said customers in the affected area have not lost service — but they shouldn't drink or use the water without boiling it first. 

Gary Brown, director of the DWSD, estimated Sunday that the advisory would be lifted by Wednesday or Thursday — "if everything goes right," he said.

"We don’t know that we had any customers who lost service," Brown said at a press conference Sunday that was recorded and posted on the department's Facebook page. "They may have lost pressure, but not service.

"However, our policy requires if in fact we drop below 20 (pounds per square inch) pressure in our system — and we had dropped to 16 — we’re required to issue a boil water alert out of an abundance of caution."

Drinking fountains at Cobo blocked off Monday morning.

The alert was an inconvenience for downtown businesses.

"It makes it hard to do food prep, but we're handling it okay," said Reilly Reynolds, manager of Maru Sushi & Grill on Fort, which was about three-quarters full Sunday evening.

"We have a ton of bottled water at the bar, and we've been getting ice from Gordon's Food Service," she said. "There's no soda from the machine, though.

"We're doing okay now, but if this continues for a while, it's going to be an intensive process getting everything ready," Reynolds said. "We're hoping for the best."

Dave Kipfmiller, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn near Greektown, said his staff has procedures in place to deal with a boil water advisory.

"We've dealt with this in the past," he said. "We give out complimentary bottles of water to our guests, and in the kitchen, we're obviously boiling the water we use. We turn off the ice machines so nobody accidentally uses them."

Brown said he's been in contact with officials at Cobo Center, where the North American International Auto Show is to kick off Monday.

When Brown was asked about the timing of the boil water advisory with the auto show about to start, he said: "The timing is never good ... the good news is, nobody is out of water ... I see the glass as half-full ... it would’ve been a disaster if Cobo couldn’t even flush toilets."

Amanda Niswonger, spokeswoman for the North American International Auto Show, said Sunday that "the show must go on."

Many thousands of bottles of water are available for purchase, drinking fountains have been turned off, and signs have been posted at restroom sinks. The ice in the building was either made yesterday, prior to the advisory, or has been brought in from areas not covered by the advisory, she said. 

Brown pointed out that the public portion of the show doesn't begin for another week, and that the first week of the event is open only to media.

"This is the media and they will be inconvenienced in that if they want to make coffee they’ll have to use bottled water or boil water," Brown said. "I don’t think that’s a heavy burden to pay in order to have safety."

The water main break happened just after midnight Sunday in a parking lot on St. Maron Place, a one-block street between East Lafayette and Larned, Brown said. The cause was not immediately known.

"The boil water advisory remains as a precautionary measure," the DWSD release said Sunday. "After the water main repair is completed, the GLWA will conduct two rounds of water quality testing, required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, prior to recommending the advisory be lifted."

Once the line is fixed, it still has to be flushed. Brown said that could take most of the day. Only 24 hours after the line is disinfected will DWSD be able to conduct testing, and it could take up to 48 hours to get those results.

Brown added the city's water and sewerage system is about to get a major overhaul, which he said would hopefully mitigate future problems.

"The reality is, we’re spending $100 million in rebuilding the system," he said. "We start our construction plan in March ... contracts are going out, and we’re going to work really hard to work on those areas of the system that are in the worst shape, so that we can stop having to do this (repair) work on an emergency basis."

About the advisory:

--Do not drink the water without boiling it first. Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water.

--Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.

--The GLWA and DWSD are working to get pressure restored. Staff will take other remedial actions such as flushing and collecting samples from around the system. The samples will be analyzed to determine that the water quality meets state drinking water standards.

--The boil water advisory will remain in effect until results from the sampling verify the water is safe to drink. DWSD will notify customers when the boil water advisory has been lifted.