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If it could talk, the big South American catfish at Jeffrey Kyle’s Restaurant and Buffet’s aquarium might ask, “What’s a ‘water main’? And what do you mean it ‘burst’?” After all, it certainly wasn’t dealing with the same water shortage the restaurant’s patrons – and owner – probably were.
While the catfish swam the day away, restaurant owner Jeff Bray served his patrons bottled water, canned sodas and no coffee or tea while city crews and officials coped with the 12-inch main on Ruby Street that burst Monday morning for the second time in five days. The Ruby Street main burst first last Thursday around 10 a.m., said City Administrator Rick Childers, and was repaired within 12 hours without a system shutdown.
Each burst brought with it scattered smaller leaks to be repaired across the city. Meanwhile, restaurants such as Jeffrey Kyles’s and also McDonald’s, Joyce’s Family Restaurant and KFC/Taco Bell sacrificed their fountain beverages in favor of canned or bottled drinks. Bray said the ripples from the main break made impact in more ways than the inconvenience of buying bottled water and canned soda, nixing other beverages, boiling all water and having to buy ice instead of making it.
The aftershocks weighed down business over the weekend by around 20 percent, Bray estimated. He qualified that the holiday weekend helped absorb the impact but it was still less-than-ideal timing.
“It’s affecting people getting out and about eating,” Bray said. “I had other restaurants calling and asking what to do. A lot of people go into a scare. It’s time consuming, because I’ve had to do this twice and don’t know when the boil order will be lifted.
The next morning, a 16-inch main burst and started the city on a boil order for the remainder of the Fourth of July weekend, Childers said. He added the clamp on that main isn’t a permanent fix.
“It’s doubtful that band will hold for a significant amount of time,” Childers said. “But it’s holding right now.”
The on-the-fly adjustments won’t end everywhere soon. Ray County Senior Center Administrator Julie Anderson announced Tuesday morning that the Center will close July 6-10, with doubled home-delivered meals going out Tuesday July 7 and Thursday July 9.
Other business interests cleared the hurdles well enough, until Childers said Monday afternoon that most major leaks had been repaired, pressure had been restored up to 40-45’ in the Hill Street water tower with the system expected fully charged by sometime Tuesday morning and the boil order being lifted as early as Wednesday, or as late as Friday.
The Shirkey Golf Club went on as scheduled with a Midwest regional PGA event. Ray County Memorial Hospital Administrator Tommy Hicks said thanks to the leak being limited to Richmond and not affecting neighboring areas, the hospital could expect few troubles as long as they had some access to an outside source of water.
“It’s inconvenient, but we’re dealing with it by getting bottled water. We rented port-a-potties from Larry’s (True Value) and we rented an ice trailer from Donnie Fowler,” Hicks said.
In fact, Hicks said his biggest challenges involved a mass congregation of port-a-potties collected in one area and keeping the hospital air conditioner’s cooling tower filled with water. He lifted up the Hardin Fire Department as a saving grace of a crisis he called “inconvenient” more than anything else.
“I understand the temperatures are going to increase along with the humidity,” Hicks said. “I sure was thankful to the Hardin Fire Department for that.”
Along the same lines, Bray commended health inspector Alan Dreves and the Richmond Department of Health for keeping eating establishments on the ball with personal inspections throughout the boil order’s duration.
“Water is a food, ice is a food,” Dreves said. “We’re just trying to make sure that if people want to stay open and serve food during the boil order, they’re doing it with a measure of safety.”
As far as Dreves knows, it’s been an incident-free event.
“People generally bring to mind ‘Can I do this, can I do that’ during a boil order,” Dreves said.
As Richmond’s people and institutions cope, Childers explained it won’t be a quick, one-step process to restore total service. Treating the water with chlorine as it re-enters the system will be a continuous process, and water samples will be tested as soon as adequate water pressure is reached again, to determine when the city can lift the boil order. Childers said that’s a consequence of chlorine dissipating as it sits dormant in the system.
Elsewhere, there will also be the process of flushing built-up air in the system to prevent further breaks. However, he added the most recent breaks are at least in part due to the system showing its age.
“When we re-pressurize the system, we have to do that slowly,” Childers said. “If we bring it along too quickly, we’ll have all kinds of small leaks all over town.”