The order to boil water for the village of Fredonia is expected to be lifted as early as today, but could last through Saturday.
Until the order is lifted, all village water customers are advised to bring water to a boil and allow it to boil for one minute before cooling for use. Bottled water is advised for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and preparing food to avoid contamination with bacteria.
The order was issued by the health department after filter beds clogged early Wednesday. Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe said, "The beds were clogged up overnight. That's what created the problem. We're working on that to get it all cleared up."
Sediment clogging filter beds was an issue for the water filtration plant over the summer, but Keefe said he visited the plant Wednesday and said, "It doesn't seem to be related. It looks like a different type of problem this time."
The Chautauqua County Department of Health issued the order late Wednesday morning, and cited the failure of a chemical feed pump, but Keefe said minor repairs had been made to the feed pumps, but were not the cause of the incident.
Fredonia Central School canceled afterschool activities and shut down drinking fountains. Officials suggest students bring bottled water with them to school today.
Keefe said the boil order is precautionary.
"Sometimes it's better to take an extreme precaution than to have anyone at risk," he explained, and said he believes it is unlikely any harmful bacteria has entered the system of water lines connected to customers.
"The lines haven't had any contaminated water. We're really just taking precautions. ... There still is potential for something to be there which is why we called for boiling."
According to the health department, "there is an increased chance" harmful microbes may be contained in customers' water due to increased turbidity, or decreased clarity, of the water.
Keefe said the village is flushing the beds and "checking our different water sources to make sure they're still clean. So far, none are contaminated at all," he told the OBSERVER Wednesday afternoon.
The water feed from Dunkirk has once again been activated to supply water to the village. When the filter beds clogged repeatedly over the summer, filtration plant supervisor Rob Lancaster turned the feed on for several months, presenting a surprising expense to the village totaling over $99,000. The annual budget for water purchases from the city of Dunkirk is allotted at $5,000.
Given the costs, residents are urged to conserve water in addition to boiling. Customers are asked to cut water usage in half if possible, and use only what is absolutely necessary.
"We ask that people reduce water usage as much as possible ... if people are using less right now, we're just a whole lot better off," Keefe said.
Dee Prampton of Culligan Water Services said the storefront on Main Street has been busy, but they do not anticipate any problems meeting demand. "We don't expect any problems," she said, and noted the customers are mostly residential but a few were commercial on Wednesday.
Once the boil order has been lifted, residents are urged to allow their lines to run to clear out pipes before using water for consumption.
The village website will be updated when the boil order has been lifted, but Keefe said customers may first learn of the change by listening to WDOE.
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