Illinois American lifts Belleville-area boil order for all but 100 customers.

by Tim O’Niel and Christine Byers, originally posted on February 3, 2017


BELLEVILLE • Illinois American Water Company lifted its boil order Friday afternoon for all but about 100 customers near the site of a major water-main break Thursday morning.

The company said the area still under the order is a narrow strip on both sides of Illinois Highway 161 from Roger Street northwest to Dutch Hollow Road. It includes the Dutch Hollow Village.

 Karen Cotton, company spokeswoman, said water-quality tests for all of the other affected areas demonstrated that the water is safe for drinking. About 75,000 residents were under the order.

A 24-inch underground main burst shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday near Highway 161 and Patricia lane.

Belleville Township District 201, which operates the East and West high schools, was back in session Friday morning — a day after canceling the school day because of a water main break.

The district said its water pressure in both schools was back to normal. The district announced on its Facebook page that each campus would have bottles of water available, but students were also being encouraged to bring their own bottles of water.

Illinois American Water crews dug to the break and rerouted water supplies by Thursday afternoon to return nearly all of the system to normal pressure.

Crews finished repairing the water main overnight, and water service has been restored to all of its customers, the company announced Friday.

The boil order covered Belleville, Columbia, Swansea, Shiloh, Millstadt and Waterloo.  The state requires boiling of water intended for drinking or cooking whenever system pressure falls below 20 pounds per square inch, about one-third of standard pressure.

Customers in the affected area should bring their water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.

Many, but not all, of the area’s schools canceled classes Thursday because of the water main break. Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said pressure fell sharply throughout the city, then began rising again by late morning.

“Some places had no water pressure after it happened,” Eckert said. “I got the first text on this shortly before 7 a.m.”

Eckert said the city contacted neighboring fire departments with tanker trucks to be ready to assist if necessary.

Illinois American is asking residents of the affected areas to bring water to a rolling boil for five minutes before using it for drinking or cooking. The water is OK for bathing, washing and other common uses.

Many schools closed, hospitals coping

  All schools within Belleville School District 118 closed Thursday, and the district promised Thursday morning to care for students who already had left for school. Althoff Catholic High School and Whiteside elementary and middle schools were among the area’s schools also closed.

Belleville Township District 201, which operates the East and West high schools, canceled the school day Thursday before it began, said Superintendent Jeff Dosier. The district has about 5,000 students.

Columbia and Waterloo public schools held classes Thursday. Employees covered water fountains and took other precautions, and made bottled water available.

Brian Charron, Waterloo schools superintendent, said the buildings had reduced water pressure, but still enough to operate the lavatories. Charron said Belleville schools, much closer to the break, lost almost all pressure.

Charron said the district will supply bottled water to students again Friday.

Spokeswomen for Memorial and St. Elizabeth’s hospitals said both were operating normally with procedures for boil orders. The St. Elizabeth’s spokeswoman said hospital staff was distributing bottled water to patients and making other accommodations.

 “We are fully functioning,” she said.

Early Thursday, Memorial Hospital diverted some ambulance arrivals and surgeries to its hospital in Shiloh, but restored regular operations by afternoon, a spokeswoman said. All surgeries scheduled for Friday will proceed.

Cotton, of Illinois American, described the 24-inch pipe as “a large service main” and said the system only has a few lines that are 30 inches in diameter.

She said the break affected about 30,000 customers, although she noted that Columbia, Millstadt and Waterloo buy water for their residents, meaning that each whole city is one “customer.” Thus, the 75,000 residents affected is an estimate, she said.

Jennifer Meyer, environmental director for the St. Clair County Health Department, said the county quickly issued instructions to restaurants upon learning of the break. Meyer said restaurants must boil all water used in cooking and cannot operate coffee machines, ice makers or other equipment directly connected to the water supply.

She said they also can’t let employees wash their hands with tap water, even though the water company allows it. She said county inspectors were making rounds Thursday to enforce the order.

Mark Onstott, owner of Tavern on Main at 301 East Main Street, said his restaurant stayed open with fresh ice and bottled water . He said the kitchen staff is using boiled water. “We’ve been through this before and know how to handle it,” Onstott said.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency requires a boil order any time water pressure drops below 20 pounds per square inch in any part of a community’s distribution system, according to an Illinois American Water statement on its Facebook page.

The order will be in effect for 36 to 48 hours after water service is restored, which is standard, according to the statement.

Illinois American Water will notify customers when the boil order is lifted via news outlets, customer calls, social media and its website,

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