Corry’s weekend-long water emergency may improve, today
By Joshua Sterling Herald, originally posted on October 3, 2016
CORRY — Businesses were asked to close, school classes have been cancelled, and support from across northwestern Pennsylvania and the state has poured into this city in response to a major water emergency as a boil water advisory remains in effect until, at least, Thursday.
Corry’s mayor, though, says a Sunday afternoon water main repair — the third such repair since Friday morning — may have put the city’s depleted reservoir and water system on a path to restoration.
The problem was noticed early Friday morning.
“We started with two water main breaks,” Corry Mayor Charlie Campbell told The Herald in a phone interview Sunday evening, after a long weekend of little sleep.
The Corry water system services “about 7,500 people” on approximately 3,200 accounts in Corry, Wayne Township to the north and west, and Columbus Township to the north and east, Campbell said.
A boil water advisory was issued as “a precautionary thing,” Campbell said.
City crews managed to locate the two broken water mains about 2,000 feet apart, Friday afternoon, along state Route 6, which slices across the city’s north end. The breaks were repaired around 10 p.m.
Those repairs, however, did not stop a continued loss of water from the city system.
On Saturday morning, it was all hands on deck, as even less water was detected in the system than immediately following the two Friday repairs, according to Campbell.
“Every employee we have, volunteers, and off-duty police and fire fighters came in,” Campbell said, adding that a “huge survey” of the city was then conducted to determine the source of the continued problem.
One such determination did not prove to be the solution.
Water was shut off to an approximate one-block area around the water reservoir, which, Campbell explained, was essentially the Myers Greene apartment complex.
The 3-million gallon reservoir was “completely dry.”
The Crawford County Emergency Management Agency brought cases of bottled water for the residents living in those apartments.
Bottled water donations came in from business in the Erie area, as well as from local businesses to help those affected — the donations funneling through the local Salvation Army.
Another truckload of bottled water is possibly being shipped into the city, Tuesday, Campbell said.
When Sunday morning rolled around, the scope of the problem became more clear.
“Sunday morning,” said Campbell, “we got up and realized we were worse off than we’d thought.”
The Conelway Regional Emergency Management Agency, of which Corry is a member, along with the Department of Environmental Protection, the state Department of Health, and the Erie County Emergency Management Agency all descended on Corry to assist.
Around 11 a.m., the third broken main was discovered.
It was found, Campbell said, right between the two that were repaired Friday.
After that repair was made, water was turned back on to every Corry water customer, around 4 p.m.
For customers at higher elevations, Campbell said, the water levels are “creeping back up.”
In order for the water customers at the Myers Greene apartment complex, and those living in higher elevations, the reservoir must contain enough water to measure 3 feet in depth.
As of Sunday night, the water measured only about 1 1/2 feet deep.
By this morning, the mayor expects all customers to be supplied with water.
The boil water advisory, however, will have to remain in effect until Thursday, at the very earliest.
According to Campbell, the Department of Environmental Protection mandates two water tests be conducted 24 hours apart in order to lift the boil water advisory.
While the water system is apparently replenishing after the third repairs, the DEP has advised the city not to test the water, today, but, rather, to wait until Tuesday when the situation is stabilized.
The second test would be conducted Wednesday, and results, Campbell said, would be expected back Thursday.
The Corry Area School District announced on its website Sunday afternoon that today’s classes would be cancelled, along with “all other activities.”
If the district elects to reopen Tuesday, Campbell anticipates a large amount of donated water to be available for students and faculty until the boil water advisory is lifted.
“We expect, by [this] morning, everyone should have water,” Campbell said.
While it may not ever be known what, exactly, caused the break, Campbell noted the city’s aging infrastructure.
“It’s an absolutely aging infrastructure,” he said, noting some pipes in the network date back to the 1890s, with a mix of “all kinds of different pipes.”
The community, between business owners, residents, volunteers and staff, Campbell said, has come together in the face of the problem.
“It’s been amazing,” Campbell said of the response effort.