by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

The city of Durand Water Department was alerted at approximately 6:15 p.m. Sunday, July 3 that the computers that maintain the city’s water system had failed, which caused the system to lose pressure and lead to the loss of water service for most of the city’s residents. Pressure was quickly restored to the system, and the city collected water samples for testing, consulted with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and began notifying the public in the first four hours after the failure. A boil water notice was issued by the city shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday evening, with the city posting the notifications at city businesses and on social media sites. The city also used the county’s emergency alert system in an attempt to notify the public, but since the system can only alert those who are registered to receive alerts, many people did not get the message that was sent.

City officials issued the boiling notice even though the city’s water pressure did not fall below 23 pounds-per-square-inch (psi), which is above the EPA’s 20 psi threshold for mandatory notification. Had the water pressure fallen below 20 psi, a reversal of pressure could have led to fecal contamination and other disease-causing bacteria entering the distribution system. The city took samples of the water Sunday night and sent them to Owosso for testing. Late Monday, Durand officials received the test results, which showed no bacterial contamination, and the city cancelled the precautionary notice at 9:30 p.m.

The city’s water pressure is usually maintained with the help of hydrostatic pressure created by gravity pulling water down from the water tower. Since the water tower has been drained while the city re-paints it, the pumps have had to pick up the slack.

Though the situation may not have legally required notification, many Durand residents thought the city could have been quicker in informing the public of the boiling notice, with some people not finding out until Monday morning. Department of Public Works Director Steve Mince explained that he would have taken more drastic measures, such as driving through the city streets with a loud speaker, had the situation warranted such action. Mince knew that pressure throughout the distribution system had not fallen into the sub-20 psi danger zone, and he thought riding through town on lit fire trucks would incite unnecessary panic.

City of Durand Survives Water Scare was last modified: July 11th, 2016 by Karen Elford