Corroded valve shuts off water for some town water customers
October 07, 2009
WHITEFIELD — What was at first thought to be a broken 100-year-old water main turned out, instead, to be a highly corroded 20-year-old valve. The leak was discovered around noontime on Wednesday on Union Street (Route 3) south of Dunkin' Donuts and the railroad tracks.
A Water Department crew, under the direction of Superintendent Bill Thompson, and Public Works Department crew, under Director Shawn White, responded quickly to the site and by about 6 p.m. that same day the valve was repaired and functioning.
The town's office staff quickly telephoned the Whitefield School, the central office of the White Mountains Regional School District, The Morrison nursing home, Weeks Physicians and Mountain View Dental offices — which shuttered their doors for the afternoon — on Route 116, as well as restaurants.
Police Chief Bill Colborn, in his capacity as the town health officer, issued a precautionary three-day "boil" order, which was later lifted a day early on Friday afternoon.
Police officers were forced to shut down one lane of traffic while the valve was repaired.
Everyone in the town offices and in the field pulled together to get the job done, reported town clerk Stephanie Glidden.
"It was a real team effort," she said, adding that the telephones rang and rang as concerned citizens called the town office as instructed to do on the town website.
SAU #36 Superintendent Dr. Lou Lafasciano joined in the collaborative effort, she said, and made use of the "Alert Now" feature of the District's telephone system to send out a recorded three-day "boil" message to every household in which Whitefield Elementary School students live.
The Whitefield School is located above the site of the break and so did not lose either its water supply or its water pressure that day, explained Whitefield School principal Ellen Turcotte. Water bubblers were turned off, however, and notes sent home asking students' parents to outfit youngsters with bottles of water.
WES's dishwashers are set at a high enough temperature to eliminate any concerns, she added.
The White Mountains Regional High School uses the town sewer system, but not the town water system, since it maintains its own on-site well.
Although at first concerned, because they had a full house of leaf peepers, the Mountain View Grand was not affected because the water comes from another main.
Whitefield Fire Chief Jay Watkins sent a fire engine to The Morrison, where 73 residents live. Firefighters provided pails of non-potable water for the facility to use to flush toilets.
"Lunch — our residents' main meal — was already made, and the kitchen staff continued with supper preparations," said executive director Roxie Severance. "We boiled used dishes to conform to the 'boil' order, and used some of the many disposable products we keep on hand for patient comfort.
"When I walked around the building, I realized no one visiting our facility would realize there was any problem being addressed," she said proudly. "Our whole staff pulled together, and did what had to be done. And the Whitefield Fire Department did everything possible to keep our residents both safe and comfortable."
Staff efforts were guided by detailed emergency response guidelines that have been carefully prepared to deal with all kinds of situations, calamities, and alerts, Ms. Severance explained.
Former "Democrat" editor Eileen Alexander, who now often works at her Parker Road home as the full-time assistant director of the Arts
Alliance of Northern New
Hampshire, said in a telephone interview that she had learned of the problem when no water came out of the tap. A neighbor called her, she recalled, to alert her to the precautionary "boil" order. Although she thought she had an ample supply of bottled water in the basement, Ms. Alexander said she had to make a quick trip to the market to buy a six-pack of water. She vowed to take steps to follow the recommendations of the state's emergency preparedness experts who suggest that New Hampshire residents keep a week's worth of food and water on hand.
WMUR-TV as well as local radio stations broadcast news of the three-day "boil" alert.