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Limited resources make it hard for Malta to spread word of boil order

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 11:46 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 11:36 p.m. CDT

MALTA – Officials said snow, frigid temperatures and limited manpower in Malta made notifying residents of a boil order Tuesday a difficult task.

To notify residents, businesses and other organizations about the order, officials recorded a phone message on the phone at Village Hall advising residents to boil any water taken from the public water system for at least five minutes before consuming it.

Notifications also are placed around town, and School District 428 and other organizations were called as required by Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and a local radio station was made aware of the order when it was put in place Tuesday afternoon.

However, many people were unaware of the order hours after it was issued. Village Hall was inundated with phone calls about water problems throughout town. Notifications also were hand-delivered by J.C. Roach, the village’s water operator.

“We are a community that has one guy who repairs and delivers the notifications,” Roach said. “I had to hand-deliver the notifications after being out in the cold for most of the day.”

A water main break on Kelsey Street caused the water pressure to fall below 20 pounds per square inch, Roach said. The EPA requires a boil order to be issued if water pressure falls below 20 psi.

“We were unable to get to every valve with the snow covering it all,” Roach said. “We were able to shut it off, but had to issue the order as required by the EPA.”

This was the village’s first boil order in more than four years, Village President Vince McCabe said. “With more than 400-plus homes, it’s impossible to go door-to-door,” he said. “We do what is required by the EPA and try to use word-of-mouth as much as we can. In this cold weather, it doesn’t matter your line of work, it’s frustrating.

“We were having trouble getting the word out.”

The boil order applies to any use of water for eating or drinking purposes, such as brushing teeth or washing food. Water can be stored in closed containers after boiling for later use.

“Right now, the [water] sample is in Somonauk at the lab, where we will get the results back within 24 hours whether it is good or bad,” Roach said.

The village had a new water system put in place in 2003 to help better regulate pressure, which has reduced the number of water main breaks, Roach said.

“We have gone from about 30 water main breaks a year to one or two,” Roach said. “The surrounding [towns] have had it a lot worse.”

Officials plan on improving the notification process based on the most recent boil order.

“We are going to put together a standardized process of who to call, when to decide to call [the boil order], etc.,” McCabe said. “We’ll find a better organized way of doing it, because it caught us by surprise.”

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