Downtown Detroit boil water alert lifted

Drinking fountains at Cobo were blocked off Monday morning. On Tuesday, the boil-water advisory was lifted.

Detroit — A boil water advisory for downtown Detroit and the lower east side of the city has been lifted, officials said.

The alert was issued after a break in a 42-inch water main Saturday near McDougall and Larned caused water pressure to drop.

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

Two rounds of testing have shown the water to be free of bacteria following the break, according to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and the Great Lakes Regional Water Authority.

The break also impacted Cobo Center, where events are taking place for the North American International Auto Show.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown and officials with the water authority appeared Tuesday morning during Detroit City Council's formal session to address questions about the main break.  He also stressed that the problem has been corrected.

"The water is safe," Brown said. "We are delivering clean, fresh water to every resident in the city of Detroit."

The top priority is "making sure there are no public health issues," GLWA CEO Sue McCormick told council members Tuesday, and the primary focus when the break occurred was on Cobo. Officials believe that "the system remained healthy at all times," she said. 

McCormick said residents first reported some "signs of water on the surface" on Thursday. After a preliminary investigation, it was determined that there was a small leak, she said. 

The water authority then sought help from a contractor, which was on the site for about 10 hours on Saturday, working to identify the pipe that was leaking, she said. The crew left the site around midnight and shortly after, "the pipe itself broke." They returned to the site around 5 a.m.

"The response was quick and rapid," McCormick told council members.

The water authority, she said, will be handling the costs associated with the break. 

Notification of the advisory being lifted comes after Brown late Monday told The News that he expected to get the all clear from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality by Wednesday or Thursday. 

On Tuesday, Brown said that the first samples were taken Sunday and the second round of testing was done on Monday. The last series of negative results came back Monday evening, he said.

“Because it came back negative with no bacteria in the system, we were able to lift it earlier than reported,” he said.

The state requires a boil water advisory to be issued when water pressure falls to below 20 pounds per square inch, or PSI. Due to the water main break, Detroit’s water pressure plummeted to 16 PSI in the defined area.

Official said other parts of the city experienced low water pressure over the weekend, but not due to the significant drop in pressure necessary to expand the advisory area.

They also said that even though the advisory has been lifted, it's recommended water should run from the tap until it is cold and be allowed to run for an additional two minutes for fresh water if it has not been used for six hours or more.

City Councilwoman Janee Ayers on Tuesday asked for an "independent investigation" by a panel of engineers not contracted by the water department or authority to evaluate why the large main break in the downtown occurred. 

Ayers also asked for details on the water authority's capital improvement plans for the system in 2019 and what percentage of funding provided to the authority by the city will be spent on city-specific projects.

Brown said he intends to make the lab sampling available online for residents.

"The public should be able to access that peace of mind," Councilman Gabe Leland said. 

A couple years ago, there was a break similar to the Saturday break and DWSD “really fell down” on notification, Brown told council members.

He noted that since that time they have improved notification protocol. He said they adhered to policies to notify schools and council members. 

“This particular round of communication was better than it had been in the past,” he said. “Can we improve upon it? Yes. And we will.”

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez