Parkersburg expands water advisory

Classes, businesses continue as affected area adds south side, Pettyville

Photo by Michael Erb Jefferson Elementary Center third-graders Lily Jackson, left, and Kaitlin Blosser, right, stop to use hand sanitizer Friday after administrators covered sinks due to a boil water advisory for north Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — A boil water advisory for Parkersburg Friday did not derail classes for students in Wood County Schools.

Many area businesses were forced to limit their menus Friday or use bottled water or bring in items from other areas.

The advisory was issued Thursday by the Parkersburg Utility Board for all customers north of the Little Kanawha River. The utility board reported, in a news release, a problem occurred causing reduced pressure in the distribution system and discoloration in the water.

On Friday, the boil water advisory was expanded to south Parkersburg and the Pettyville area, and includes all Parkersburg Utility Board customers. Attempts were unsuccessful on Friday to flush the clearwell at the water treatment plant without further impacting the distribution system, the PUB said.

Because levels in the tanks were becoming critically low, it became necessary to start pumping to the system, the PUB said Friday night. “The storage tanks need to be brought to acceptable levels before they can be flushed.”

Photo by Michael Erb Plastic covers a water fountain Friday at Jefferson Elementary Center.

Eric Bennett, manager of the utility board, late Friday afternoon issued a press release that said additional flushing will be required before the treatment plant can be placed back into normal operation.

“Until the treatment plant is placed back into normal operations the boil water advisory will remain in effect,” the release said. “The Parkersburg Utility Board and its staff are committed to providing this community with a safe and reliable source of water.”

Wood County Schools officials said the advisory affected Criss, Emerson, Jefferson, Madison, McKinley and Worthington elementary schools, as well as Hamilton and Van Devender middle schools and Parkersburg High School.

Jefferson Elementary Center Assistant Principal Jeni Hopkins said officials were alerted to the advisory and took action early Friday prior to students arriving at school.

“We covered all the water fountains and sinks,” Hopkins said. “We placed out hand sanitizer for students throughout the building.”

Bottled water was provided to students.

“The good thing is, it’s a Friday, so we don’t have our pre-kindergarten kids here today,” Hopkins said. “We were concerned other students might not come today, but it’s been a pretty normal day for us attendance-wise.”

Hollie Best, director of food service and nutrition for Wood County Schools, said the district keeps an emergency supply of bottled water for kitchens and officials changed Friday’s menu to prepare items that did not require water.

Best said all of the school kitchens will be cleaned prior to the start of school Monday, dishes will be rewashed and ice machines cleaned out and sanitized.

“We try to make sure we address every issue we can think of,” Best said. “Our goal is to keep the kids safe and healthy. The schools have handled it very well.”

Two of local Wendy’s owner-operator Ray Blackburn’s restaurants were in the area affected by the boil advisory.

“What we have been able to do is use those other stores … who are not under boil water advisories and be able to get the products we need from them,” Blackburn said.

Ice and pop machines at the Wendy’s locations on Seventh Street and Emerson Avenue were turned off, and ice, washed lettuce and chili and lemonade ingredients were brought from the Belpre and south Parkersburg restaurants, he said.

“We’re able to offer pretty much everything other than the drinks,” Blackburn said, noting soft drinks were being poured from two-liter bottles.

Crystal Cafe owner J.R. Carpenter said he shut down the ice machine at his Market Street establishment and boiled water for handwashing in the kitchen.

“Basically it’s bottled water only outside the kitchen,” he said.

Carpenter was optimistic the advisory would be lifted Friday evening but said he planned to boil water for use today just in case and break out the coffeemakers the restaurant uses for catering, rather than the machines tied into the building’s water lines.

“Business is down (Friday), which is understandable,” he said.

A condition occurred that may have permitted a possibility for customers’ water to become contaminated, the PUB said Friday night. Initial water samples from testing on Thursday showed no signs of bacteria.

“However, due to the storage level issues, the boil water advisory must be expanded while water is pumped from the clearwell to the system. Additional testing will be completed to confirm or deny the presence of contamination in your water,” the PUB said.

Personnel were working Friday to fill the storage tanks. Samples will be collected and submitted for testing, the PUB said.

Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, bathing and food preparation.

Bennett said the utility board will use all media channels and its mass notification system to advise customers when the advisory has been lifted. Customers who have not signed up for mass notifications system can do so at at the bottom of the home page and register on the “code red” rapid emergency notification system.