Fredonia's water issues have been cleared up for now.
The order to boil water was lifted for Fredonia water customers Monday afternoon. The village flushed lines throughout the system, and residents are advised to run water through their systems before using if they haven't already done so.
On Monday afternoon, the health department announced in a press release, "It is now safe to use the water for drinking, cooking, and all other normal uses. Residents are also no longer required to conserve water."
According to the release the village of Fredonia water treatment plant was back into normal operations as of Friday evening. Village staff collected water samples from throughout the distribution system on both Saturday and Sunday. The samples were tested for total coliform bacteria and turbidity, which is a measure of the cloudiness of the water. Both rounds of bacteria testing, analyzed by the Chautauqua County Health Department laboratory, confirmed no harmful bacteria were present in the water system.
Turbidity, or lack of water clarity, is used as an indicator for what microbes other than bacteria might be present in the water. The turbidity measured on Sunday throughout the village were better than those taken on Saturday, which indicated the water produced during the emergency was working its way out
Village staff flushed water mains on Monday morning but the health department noted fire hydrants which were flushed may make water temporarily roily as at other times hydrants are flushed.
Water customers are advised to flush their plumbing systems by running faucets, tubs and other water fixtures to ensure safe water is throughout the plumbing. If water is cloudy or colored due to hydrant flushing, residents are advised not to do laundry and not drink the water until it has cleared.
Mayor Stephen Keefe said he has been getting many questions about how residents should proceed. "I got a question about hot water tanks. You want to let it at least circulate through a couple of times" before drinking or using for preparing food, he explained. Fore automatic ice makers installed in refrigerators, Keefe said residents should "make a couple batches of ice cubes before you start using them"
Questions about home water filters were also asked of Keefe, who said residents should speak to the health department regarding proper use of filters.
The problem is believed to have started overnight in a chemical pump system. According to Keefe, "It's a feeder that funnels down to a small hole, and that hole got clogged. If someone had been aware of it when it first clogged, it would have been an easy process. Without anyone being aware of it, it just got out of whack," he explained.
Solving the problem was time consuming, according to Keefe. "To get it back in shape, it took a number of processes, and after each process, you have to wait. You don't know what's working until you give it a chance to see what's working."
The problem behind the recent situation is resolved, Keefe said, but added, "We need to come up with a way to avoid (a system failure) in the future. ... "We're looking at putting an alarm system on the mechanical system. We need to start thinking about what else can go wrong and prepare for any other possibilities ... we need to get creative about how we think about it, because it's hard to predict everything, but we'll be better off if we do."
When asked if an alarm system would have prevented the problem or decreased the amount of time the boil order was in place, Keefe replied, "I don't know. At least we would have been aware of it (right away). Right now, we have an alarm that goes off if the water goes too high, and an alarm goes off if it gets too low. We don't have alarm on this chemical. This is something else we want to look into a complete alarm system that can make us aware of what is going on," Keefe said.
Keefe said the boil order has been challenging to everyone.
"I spoke the wife of dentist today, and they closed down. There are all these things you never think about how are they going to flush someone's mouth after oral surgery?"
Keefe said the problem, "impacted everyone, and some more than others. Workers were being put out of work right before Christmas that's a tragedy in itself."
Keefe said some business was able to resume early because water was able to be rerouted from the Dunkirk water treatment source. "Being able to go to another water source so quickly helped. If there is anything we can venture into as a win-win, sources can still be supplied by one or another. Rather than an area that has only one source or another, we have two distinctly different water sources," he said.
A permanent supply from Dunkirk is not a viable answer, according to Keefe. "All of our water is just gravity fed, and we can flow it to Dunkirk with gravity, but there is a system of pumps to get it from Dunkirk to Fredonia," so the cost of running pumps to move the water from Dunkirk increases costs, he explained.
Dunkirk's incomplete system upgrades, Keefe said, also prevent Dunkirk from being a sole source of water to the village. "At this point they couldn't supply it, and if they could, the question is, can they pump it up (into higher elevations in Fredonia) cheaper than we can flow it down (into village homes)?"
Keefe called the recent problem a "trying situation" and said, "I'm going to do everything we can to avoid it in the future. We're going to look at every thing that can go wrong and make sure it's monitored in a practical way."
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