Family turns to beer brewer in boil alert

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills — If you’re stuck in the last pocket of Oakland County awaiting the all-clear on its water, it helps to be a home brewer. Or a dog.

The boil water alert sparked last week by a broken water main was lifted Sunday in the final seven of 11 affected communities — Commerce Township, Orchard Lake Village, Walled Lake, West Bloomfield Township, Wixom, Novi and Farmington Hills.

The holdout was the northwest sector of Farmington Hills, where the restriction won’t be lifted until at least Monday and the Probert family still had a drinking glass perched as a reminder in the ice-and-water dispenser on the front of the refrigerator.

“It’ll be really nice to return to city water,” said Lora Probert, partly for the convenience and partly so she, her husband and their two sons can stop kicking themselves when they slip up and brush their teeth with tap water.

There have been no mistakes at the kitchen sink, where a tall, white, 3-gallon spigoted cooler — a reminder of Brad Probert’s passion for self-made beer — has sat like a sentinel on the edge of the sink, dispensing water boiled effortlessly in another piece of brewing equipment.

In a nearby house along the same wide commons area near Drake Road and 13 Mile, WDET-FM (101.9) program director Joan Cherry Isabella woke up in the wee hours a few mornings ago to discover that “in the middle of all this, Parker decided to drink out of the toilet.”

A 90-pound black lab mix, Parker had never done that before, or at least he’d never slurped loudly enough to wake the family. While he turned out to be unaffected by the experience and unfazed by his slip-up, Isabella said she was leaning toward making water issues the subject of the station’s Monday morning broadcast.

The water main break had occurred Monday in a 48-inch pipe 10 feet below ground along 14 Mile between Drake and Farmington roads. The resulting loss of water pressure can lead to bacteria in the water system, according to the Great Lakes Water Authority, and more than 300,000 people were instructed to use boiled or bottled water for such common tasks as washing fruits and vegetables, cooking and making ice.

Water Authority CEO Sue McCormick said in a press release Sunday that she wanted to extend “a huge thank you” to the crews involved in the round-the-clock effort to repair the break.

“I also want to thank the residents and businesses who were impacted by this unprecedented break,” she said. “Your patience has been greatly appreciated.”

Officials at Henry Ford Health System also offered thanks, and said all facilities impacted by the water main break will be fully operational Monday.

The Proberts’ portion of Farmington Hills was lagging behind the other areas because a valve malfunction Friday night led to a drop in water pressure. According to the county, one test subsequently showed no bacteria in the water, but regulations call for a second clean test 24 hours after the first before the water advisory is lifted.

“I can’t be too mad about it,” Lora Probert said, a feeling shared by son Maxiumus, 11.

“I can’t drink out of the tap,” he conceded, “but school was canceled for two days.”

Lose some, win some — and as his mother pointed out, things could be vastly worse.

“I’ve been thinking about the damage from the hurricanes,” she said, “and I remind myself of that when I brush my teeth with tap water again and say, ‘Arrgh!’ ”

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn