Ashland’s water situation continues to improve but nearly 3,000 customers remain without water, according to City Manager Ben Bitter.
However, much progress has been made, he said.
“We now have fewer customers without water. We were up to 7,000 yesterday (Friday) morning and we’ve cut that in half or less. There’s probably 2,000 to 3,000 (without water).”
Russell and Greenup water issues also seem to be improving, according to city officials.
Ashland city workers continue to repair line breaks including a major 16-inch line on 43rd Street that led to some outages. Bitter said there were three new breaks, all relatively minor, overnight.
“Workers are out there working hard getting leaks solved and problems fixed,” Bitter said. “To date we have not had any serious injury and that’s the most important thing. Guys are getting in a lot of overtime hours to get the system restored.”
The leak on 43rd Street was more troublesome than first believed.
“We’ve had trouble isolating the break to get the pressure off the system. The difficulty with isolating that line has a lot of customers having water not available at the tap anymore. It has been a much longer repair than anticipated because it is so difficult to isolate that line.”
He likened fixing the lines to “being like a mad scientist using 15 or 16 different chemicals and trying to manage it all without making the whole system explode.”
Workers must turn on a valve, then turn off another to provide relief to make the repair, he said. “It helps one tank increase, but some other tanks my decrease. Those lines may have less pressure. We ask the public to bear with us. If you have water, then don’t for awhile, it will return in short order.”
However, Bitter said the workers were “getting the upperhand” on the situation.
He also commended the city’s fire department and workers from Boyd County for lending a hand. Bitter said the Skyline Drive water storage tank, which had been refilling at a rate of only 7 pounds per square inch, was now refilling at 60 PSI thanks in part to “a work-around” that involves using a fire truck to draw water from another tank via a fire hydrant on Boy Scout Road and pumping it into the Skyline tank.
The downside of that, Bitter said, is that it necessitated the closure of Boy Scout Road between Greenbriar Road and Azalea Drive.
The road has been barricaded at the work site and could be closed for three to five days, according to the Kentucky Department of Highways.
“We are looking at other options,” Bitter said, when asked about the length of time the road will be closed.
Those who have water remain under a systemwide boil-water advisory, and Bitter said there was no way of knowing when that will be lifted. However, he did say it would likely take several days for the system to be pressurized adequately enough to allow that.
For those who don’t want to go through the trouble of boiling water, potable water is available at the Ashland Water Plant at 4040 Winchester Ave. at any time. Residents are welcome to bring containers and fill and refill them as often as necessary, Bitter said.
Also, the city is continuing to distribute bottled water at Central Park and Ashland Community and Technical College until 6 p.m. each night. However, starting today, proof of residency (water bill or driver’s license) will be necessary to get a case of water. “We will continue to do that as long as necessary,” he said.
Bitter said city officials were still urging those who have water service to conserve as much as possible. That will allow the tanks to refill quicker and enable the city to restore service to those with low pressure and no pressure, he said.
“I think things are still looking positive,” he said. “We are just having difficulty with some of the repairs.”
Brent Webster, the director of Boyd County Emergency Management, is asking residents to enroll with Nixle.com to get up to the minute updates.
“This is a public notification system the Emergency Management and City of Ashland uses to inform the citizens of Byd County about boil water advisories and water issues along with emergency notifications when emergency incidents are occuring,” he said.
Citizens can follow instructions on the website and text back from cellphones to complete the process.
Also, he said water would be available at the Summit Ironville Fire Station and the Senior Center in Catlettsburg for as long as supplies last. A photo ID showing residence is required with a limit of three gallons or one case a day.
Other water issues
Russell Mayor Bill Hopkins reported improved conditions with the Russell system that also supplies Raceland, Wurtland and Flatwoods.
“We are doing a little better today,” he aid. “We picked up 30 to 40 percent of what we need. We haven’t had any breaks today and that helps a lot. We are making some progress.”
Hopkins said Flatwoods is still pulling some water from Ashland “so that helps us, too.”
He said the system should be “as good as we can be in the next 24 hours.”
Russell customers were never totally without service but did have severe pressure drops, he said.
Some in Greenup are still without water but Mayor Lundie Meadows said that if there are no other major problems that all customers should be restored by sometime Monday.
The Greenup, Lloyd and Coal Branch tanks are filled and they were attempting to fill the Argillite tank when faced “with a minor setback,” he said. “We have not started that process yet.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.