GALLIPOLIS — Even though many Gallipolis residents are slowly regaining water service, City Manager Randy Finney says work crews still haven’t found the elusive water leak that has forced the city’s restaurants to close and left the city in the midst of an emergency for almost a week.
“Water is being restored to most all areas of the Gallipolis city water system,” Finney said in an automated phone call Saturday. “That does not mean we have resolved the problem. We still have a major water leak that we need to identify and correct.”
The water leak was originally discovered early Monday. As crews worked to find the source of the leak, the city issued a boil water advisory to all of its 3,000 water customers. But as the week has progressed, crews still haven’t been able to find the leak. That has caused a unprecedented water emergency for a city that was founded in the late 1790s as restaurants have been forced to close and residents sent scrambling to find water with which to cook, clean, bathe and drink.
During the crisis, many Gallipolis residents have flocked across the river to Point Pleasant, W.Va., and elsewhere for water and other needs. Many stores in and around Gallipolis couldn’t keep up with the demand for bottled water as shelves remained empty for much of the week.
Finney said Saturday that water service will be “turned on and off” as work crews will continue to test areas of the water system throughout the weekend.
“But we wanted to give a supply of water back to residents,” he said.
But even though water may be flowing from area faucets, Finney said the water boil advisory first issued Monday is still in effect.
“It may be several days before it is lifted,” he said in the automated message. “Do not consume the water until it has been boiled for at least three minutes. We understand everyone’s need for water, but we want to do this in a safe and effective manner.”
The Gallia County Emergency Management Agency continues to staff the Emergency Operations Center, located in the basement of the 911 center, to help coordinate delivery and distribution of water. Any requests or inquiries concerning the water outage can be made to the EMA at (740) 441-2036. If there is an emergency, officials urge people to call 911.
The American Red Cross and Gallia County Health Department, with assistance from local high school and 4-H club volunteers, have been staffing the water distribution at the public use area of the Gallipolis City Park.
The water, which is contained in a 5-gallon plastic-bladder-type bag, will be handed out from 1-7 p.m. throughout the weekend and is for drinking use only.
Water customers can fill their own containers, for uses other than drinking, at the water treatment plant, located at 2020 Chestnut St., Gallipolis, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sunday.
The Gallipolis Developmental Center has offered the use of its bathroom and shower facilities from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the water crisis. They are located at 2500 Ohio Ave. in Gallipolis. People are asked to supply their own personal care items to use the facilities. People can also fill their own containers with tap water at the GDC. There will be signs posted around campus to direct residents where to go.
Portable restrooms are also available at City Park, Gallia County Courthouse and the Gallia County Health Department. Hand sanitizer stations, Finney said, are available at the aforementioned portable restroom facilities.
Restaurants and other food establishments that use Gallipolis city water remained closed Saturday because of the leak that was discovered Monday and originally thought to have been under the water at Chickamauga Creek at the Ohio 7 bridge. Gallia County Health Commissioner Dr. Gerald Vallee issued the closure order all restaurants in the Gallipolis water distribution area on Thursday. Those businesses will remain closed until water is restored and the order is lifted by the EPA and health department, Finney said.
On Friday, it was reported that work crews, along with the along with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Rural Water Association, were able to isolate the water lines, providing good flow and pressure on the main line feeding the reservoir.
“We have opened the line to the reservoir and are attempting to send water to the reservoir,” Finney said at the time. “With this isolation, we have a better idea where we are losing pressure. We have companies coming in town … to apply monitors to the hydrants in an attempt to locate the broken line. It is the first positive sign that we have had for a while.”
Officials want to remind people to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly and those who cannot leave their homes.
For the most up-to-date information on the water crisis, visit the city’s website at www.cityofgallipolis.com; or call the Gallia County Emergency Management Agency at (740) 441-2036 for information or concerns.