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Distracted driver blamed for drinking water warning PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Tuesday, 21 November 2017 19:21

Woman reaching for purse hits fire hydrant, prompts boil advisory

    What started as an accident turned into a major inconvenience for some Port Washington residents last week after they were warned to boil their drinking water for a day.
    It was an unusual accident and aftermath, Water Supt. Dave Kleckner said.
    “It’s something we haven’t dealt with in the time I’ve been here,” he said, adding that’s been 35-1/2 years. “This was totally beyond our control.”
    The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, when a 26-year-old Belgium woman driving north on Bywater Drive reached down to pick up her purse, which had fallen, Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said.
    “When she looked up, she was jumping the curb,” he said.
    The woman’s 2008 Saturn, which was totalled, struck the fire hydrant, breaking both it and the lateral pipe feeding it, Kleckner said.
    It’s normal for the hydrant to break in an accident, he said, noting they’re designed to do just that. But it’s very unusual for the impact to fracture the lateral, he said.
    The accident happened just as he was heading home, Kleckner said. While on his way home, he got a call that someone in the Misty Ridge subdivision on the city’s south side had no water.
    “Then calls started coming in from other subdivisions — New Port Vista, Greystone, Woodridge,” Kleckner said.
    Once police notified him of the accident, he headed to the scene. Although water was gushing from the pipe, department workers had to shut off the flow slowly to avoid damaging other pipes, Kleckner said.
    It took about an hour to completely close the pipe, he said, estimating more than 400,000 gallons of water were lost during that time.
    The damaged section of pipe didn’t feed any customers, Kleckner said, but the amount of water flowing from the pipe caused customers in the area to significantly lose pressure or lose water service all together.
    Kleckner consulted with the Department of Natural Resources — something required by law after a significant loss of pressure in a system — and was told the city needed to impose a precautionary boil order.
    That’s because when the pressure in the system dropped, cross connections or illegal connections could have allowed bacteria to enter the system, he said.
    When the system is operating normally, the water pressure doesn’t allow this to occur, he said.
    Water department workers collected eight samples of water Wednesday evening —two each from the Misty Ridge, Greystone, New Port Vista and Woodridge subdivisions —for testing, a process that takes 24 hours.
    The department has a certified lab to do the testing, and the samples came back clear Thursday evening, Nov. 16. The boil advisory was then cancelled.
     A new hydrant was installed on Friday, Nov. 17.
    Police cited the Belgium woman for inattentive driving, Hingiss said, adding the department will likely seek restitution for the water that was lost and other costs.
    “This just shows the importance of paying attention and not getting distracted,” he said. “She could have been on a sidewalk hitting someone.”Daily Press