By Tom Corrigan
There has been vast improvement, but in some ways the saga of Portsmouth’s water supply continues.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Acting City Manager Sam Sutherland said he believed water had reached all but a few homes in Portsmouth. That was obviously a much lower number than the “thousands” who were said to be without water Tuesday. Sutherland said the city had experienced yet another water break Wednesday morning in front of the old, now defunct doughnut shop on Gallia Street. He added that break quickly was fixed and had little impact on the overall water system.
The break on Gallia was at least the third reported in the last few days. According to various officials, the main area of the city affected and without water in some cases since Friday, was or is, the so-called hilltop area around Sunrise Avenue.
A press release from the city health department supplied a sort of history or narrative regarding the recent water crisis. In some ways the narrative seems to contradict earlier statements from officials who said the water breaks were a matter of bad luck and unrelated to the line improvement project.
The health department narrative reads as follows:
“The areas affected by the current water problems receive water through two pipe systems fed from the water treatment facility located next to the New Boston Walmart. The plant pumps water through a low-pressure system which supplies the lower elevations and a high-pressure system that supplies the higher elevations to include the Sunrise Reservoir and holding tank.
“The 30-inch water main that runs from Robinson Avenue to the reservoir is the main feed of the high-pressure system. In order to facilitate upgrades to that line, a portion of the 30-inch main was taken off line, pushing water through alternative 16- and 24-inch water lines in order to maintain water services while upgrades were ongoing.
“Late Friday, June 22nd, a series of water breaks within the low-pressure system pulled water away from the high-pressure system resulting in a loss of suction and depressurization of the remaining 30-inch line running to the Sunrise holding tank and a loss of pressure on the hilltop, including SOMC (Southern Ohio Medical Center). As subsequent breaks occurred and were isolated, the stress on the low-pressure system caused additional breaks, preventing the system from regaining and maintaining sufficient pressure to keep the high-pressure system from operating properly.”
According to both Sutherland and the health department, one of the booster pumps at Sunrise is pumping water to the high-pressure system – but at reduced pressure, according to the health department. Sutherland said the city had received a backup pump, apparently courtesy of Ohio Department of Natural Resources. However, Sutherland also said the pump arrived minus a certain type of needed connecting sleeve. He added the item is not something you would normally find on the shelf of your local hardware store. Sutherland said the city ordered one of the sleeves but in the meantime received the needed part from the city of Zanesville.
According to Sutherland, the first pump is humming away on 24th Street. A city worker is stationed near the pump essentially babysitting it. Sutherland said the second pump will be used as a sort of backup if needed, which he maintained had always been sort of the plan. As of Wednesday afternoon, things seemed to be working as intended.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to pump all day,” Sutherland said
While all seemed well, the health department release stated the Portsmouth Water Works continued to ask residents to conserve water as much as possible and to be on the alert for possible sources of water loss. These efforts will be a great help to maintaining water pressure, the department said. If any resident becomes aware of the sound of, or has seen, running water that is not usually present, they are asked to contact the water plant at 740-456-4946. A boil advisory remained in effect for the hilltop area as of Wednesday afternoon.
Also as of Wednesday afternoon, free tap water contained to be available for fill up at the water filtration plant in New Boston. Please bring you own jugs to fill up.
For residents living in the hilltop area, Rosemount, or West Portsmouth if you have special needs, or are unable to leave your home to purchase or fill up at the filtration plant, call the Portsmouth City Health Department call line.
The health department stated that some ways residents can conserve water include drinking bottled water, refraining from flushing lines, filling pools, watering lawns or washing dishes and laundering until the situation has been remedied.
Until all issues can be resolved, the health department said it will continue to man a 24/7 information and assistance telephone line. That number is 740-354-8931.