On Wednesday morning at 6:46 a.m., the University’s Emergency Notification System went into high alert with a text message regarding a city-wide water outage. Most students were asleep at the time of the outage.
“We experienced a water outage across campus early this morning between 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.,” Dean of Students Mike Whaley wrote in an email to The Argus. “The city worked hard to re-route and restore supply once the problem was identified and isolated. Most of the campus had water again by 7 a.m.”
The outage was caused when a major 24-inch water main burst off of Silver Mine Road near the Rushford Center and Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown. The city lost approximately one million gallons of water.
“This is like a burst artery near your heart and the difficulty from it was that already-treated water was gushing rapidly out of our system,” Mayor Dan Drew wrote on Wednesday morning in an email obtained by The Argus. “The consequence of this is that water was draining quickly out of our reserve tanks and the treatment plant could not keep up supplying the necessary water for the rest of the community. When this happens, pressure drops and supply is cut off to some places. It also got air into the pipe and resulted in reverse flows in the pipe. That leads to discolored and/or cloudy water.”
Although most of the facilities were restored before many got out of bed on Wednesday, students were advised to be cautious about their water usage over the following few days. According to Drew, Middletown public schools, Vinal Tech, Middlesex Hospital, and all of the parochial schools were all closed on Wednesday morning so that the city could flush and replenish the pipes.
“There were some instances of cloudy and/or discolored water, but water was and is okay for bathing,” Whaley wrote. “Despite this, we are asking students to run the water until clear before brushing teeth, drinking, cooking, etc.”
The matter was resolved rapidly due to the work provided by city employees.
“We isolated the main and shut it down, and the system is now coming back to normal with water levels and pressures building up,” Drew wrote on Wednesday. “We have begun flushing the water lines throughout the city, beginning in critical areas like near Middlesex Hospital, to clear the lines of debris. This debris and turbidity is normal and non-toxic, but as a precautionary measure, we advise you not to use cloudy water. If you must use it, boil it first.”
Drew says that although the pressure is now back to normal, the city will still be flushing areas of the pipe over the next several days. This process must be done cautiously, over time, in order to prevent fast pressure fluctuations and further damages to the pipe.
Drew provided some tips for the community in light of this event.
“We are asking people to avoid using the tap whenever possible to give us time to replenish pressure and flush pipes,” Drew wrote on Wednesday. “Middlesex Hospital is diverting ambulance patients to other hospitals and we are coordinating additional potable water tanker deliveries for hospital patients. Southeastern Connecticut towns have sent an additional five tanker trucks and two hose tenders that will have Middletown Police Department escorts in the event of a fire. This provides us with tens of thousands of gallons of backup water for fire suppression.”
The hospital was given two 6,000-gallon certified potable water tankers and one more 2,000-gallon certified potable water tanker for the kitchen and food preparation area.
The Connecticut Department of Health is also collecting water samples in aggregation with city water and health departments to guarantee water quality in the wake of the outage.