By Tom Corrigan
“The system’s just stirred up,” said Portsmouth Acting City Manager Sam Sutherland.
Sutherland was referring to reports and phone calls he’d received regarding brownish, seemingly polluted water coming from residential taps in certain areas of the city. Sutherland admitted his own home was affected, adding water reaching his Dorman Drive home had a “dirty orange tint to it.”
“It’s quite a bit off color,” he added.
Sutherland placed the blame for the off-color water on a $2.9 million project to replace an aging waterline running from the city reservoir. As of early Friday afternoon, Sutherland said there was no reason for any panic by residents or any effected businesses. He said the city is not recommending boiling drinking water, though he added residents obviously are free to do so if it makes them feel safer.
“I know it doesn’t look good,” Sutherland said, though asserting he would drink it himself. He didn’t seem to feel the water contained any particulates or sediments but was simply an odd color. Sutherland did say he would not advise washing clothes, especially white clothes, in the off-color water.
Problems apparently started Thursday evening. At that point, responding to concerns over low water pressure, contractors began to take steps to reverse that situation and increase the water pressure inside the mainline running from the reservoir, which for now is cut off from the rest of the system. Once the tie-ins were made, pressure problems apparently were solved but workers may have created another problem as complaints of dirty water began to surface. One of the biggest entities affected was the Southern Ohio Medical Center’s Cancer Center on Kinneys Lane.
The most affected areas seem to be in the area of Kinneys Lane, 18th streets and Robinson Avenue streets. Sutherland said the city quickly took steps to begin addressing the issue, the biggest measure being to flush water lines by opening fire hydrants and thus removing contaminants from the system. The city manager added that if water from the reservoir was available, flushing could be done much more aggressively. However, with the reservoir temporarily cut off, Sutherland said opening too many hydrants at once would greatly impact water pressure.
Sutherland was hesitant to guess when water might be returning to normal.
“I’m hoping by the evening,” he said Friday afternoon.
Contractors Mike Enyart and Sons, Inc., of South Point, began work on the water line replacement June 4, according to Sutherland. They have 180 days from that date to finish the work, though Sutherland feels it will be done before then.
“It’s still going to be a couple more weeks because of the snags they ran into,” he added.
Sutherland explained those “snags” as follows. Essentially, workers are placing a new line inside the old one, which dates back to the 1920s. As they pushed the new pipe into the older one, it began to catch on various bits of metal, bends, pieces of warped piping from old repairs and so on. Sutherland said contractors needed to clear the old piping before they could proceed as planned. He seemed to believe Enyart had come close to solving the issue and is getting back close to schedule.