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GLWA: Most Oakland Co. water pressure restored

Charles E. Ramirez and Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Water pressure has been restored to most of the 11 communities affected by a Monday water main break in Farmington Hills, regional water authority officials said Wednesday.

However, they said pressure has not yet been restored to residents in Farmington Hills.

In addition, the Great Lakes Water Authority said in a statement the number of residents with little or no water pressure has been reduced from 51,380 to 35,604.

Despite the progress, the authority reminded residents they are still under a mandatory boil water advisory, even if they have water pressure.

Authority officials said they were notified at 5 p.m. Monday about the break in a 48-inch water main located 10 feet below the ground at 14 Mile between Farmington and Drake in Farmington Hills.

The break cut water service to 11 Oakland County communities: Commerce Township, Farmington Hills, Novi, Rochester Hills, Walled Lake, West Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Township, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and Wixom as well as the Hills of Oakland and Kings Pointe subdivisions in Oakland Township.

The water authority issued a boil water alert to prevent illness from contaminated water.

The problem forced dozens of schools to close Tuesday, including the Novi Community Schools District, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools, the West Bloomfield School District and Bloomfield Hills Schools, and some schools in the Farmington Public Schools district.

On Wednesday, Farmington Public Schools said on its Facebook page classes will be back in session Thursday. District officials said water fountains have been covered and bottled water will be available for students and staff who need it. They are also encouraging students and staff to bring bottled water with them to school for as long as the boil water advisory lasts.

Also Wednesday, the authority said new pieces of pipe arrived at the scene of the break and crews began work to replace the broken water main. Officials said crews are on track to complete repairs.

Once repairs are finished, crews will test the water pressure and then flush and disinfect the water main. It will test the quality of the water flowing through the repaired main, which will take about 48 hours. If test results are clear, the boil water advisory could be lifted by the end of the day Friday, the authority said.

Fire departments in at least three Oakland County communities are coping and coming up with alternative ways to ensure their engines have the ability to combat fires.

So far, in those communities, there have been no major emergencies, including structural fires, to douse.

The Commerce Township Fire Department has water pressure, but at a reduced level.

“We can use hydrants now, but a day before the main break, we had to pull water from the lake instead of from hydrants,” said one of three captains, Mark Gall. “We had to pull up a fire engine and pull water from the lake to use.”

He said they now are able to fill up with city water.

“It’s not drinkable, so the only thing we’re dealing with now is having to use bottled water for our coffee,” he said.

The Rochester Hills Fire Department was in good form during the advisory.

“Our trucks are always maintained at full water capacity, so we were not impacted in that regards, and fortunately, we have not had any fires since the advisory was enacted,” said spokeswoman Nancy Butty.

Butty said other than the inconvenience of having to boil water or purchase bottled water for use, they have “minimally been impacted by the water advisory in regards to the fire protection services we provide. ”

The Walled Lake Fire Department now has sufficient water pressure, but called in reinforcements earlier, just in case.

“We have a mutual aid group, MABAS 3201 and early on, we were on conference calls because we had no pressure in Walled Lake,” said fire chief Jim Coomer.

MABAS is the Oakland County Fire Mutual Aid Association whose mission is to share municipal fire service resources, according to their website.

Coomer continued, “We requested two water tanks from the north end, in Groveland Township, and they responded with personnel and a 3,000 gallon water tanker so we had water available. Another tanker responded from Independence Township, in case we had a fire, we’d have enough water.

He said the city now has water pressure and the tankers were released this morning.