Low water raises temperatures
MANOR -- Manor Township Joint Municipal Authority customers are in their seventh day with little or no water. Tension is high and tempers are running short.
A water service disruption that occurred a week ago today affected water customers in Manorville, McGrann and Manor Township, as well as parts of Rayburn and Kittanning townships. The largest area affected is along Route 85, from the Route 28/66 intersection to just beyond Erdley's Sunnyside Personal Care Home, and the Armstrong County Jail.
Armstrong County Emergency Management Coordinator Randy Brozenick met with Manor Township Joint Municipal Authority manager Jack Tirpak and said he was told the water problem may not be remedied until Thursday or Friday, at the earliest.
Tirpak said he believes the problem in getting water to Rayburn may be due to a massive air blockage somewhere in a 10-inch main line. To date, township water crews have been unable to pinpoint the location of the blockage.
"The problem is compounded by a failure in pump four, a high capacity pump that supplies water to Rayburn and parts of Kittanning Township," he said. "We have a water pump specialist company, Eikelbergers Inc. of Mechanicsburg, working on replacing the pump at this time."
At the Manor Township Joint Municipal Authority office, Tirpak said that some people have accused the office staff of taking the phone off the hook to prevent calls from coming in, but said that was not true.
"They're just getting one call after the other, so their line is constantly busy," he said. "But they are answering every call and giving callers what information they have. My own cell phone has been ringing constantly and I try to answer or return every call. Over the past several days I've had hundreds of calls. We've run into one problem after the other and it's very frustrating. We're calling in other contractors and companies to help us with their expertise and we're working overtime to find and solve all the problems."
Manor Township supervisor Lud Miller said he has received numerous phone calls and tries to address callers' concerns.
"Jack (Tirpak) and the water workers are doing what they can to find the problem," Miller said. "We've called in some experts. I think once they find it, they'll know what to do. We're going to meet with our board and we'll meet with EMA if they want us too. We'll handle this and we will plan for how to handle any future emergencies."
Jail warden, David Hogue, said the jail is getting its water from two, 250-gallon water buffaloes. The portable water tanks are filled several times a day by the Rayburn Fire Department. Yesterday, Kittanning Township Fire Department filled in for Rayburn when crews were not available. Hogue said that he is angry that Manor Township didn't have a backup plan for such an emergency.
"The (Armstrong County) EMA office sent two water buffaloes to the jail and they are filled two to three times a day by the fire department," Hogue said. "We bring water into the jail in 35-gallon plastic garbage cans and use that water to flush toilets and to allow inmates to take sponge baths. No one can take a shower. We also have some insulated coolers with ice water for drinking. We do have water slowly trickling out of some faucets but little, if any, pressure."
Hogue said laundry chores have been curtailed and inmates are being issued spare linens and uniforms.
"We'll have a lot of laundry to catch up on, among other things," he said.
"We've also curtailed all outside work such as grass cutting by trustee inmates. We can't ask anyone to work under those conditions. I know we're not the only ones affected but it's very frustrating."
Hogue commended Rayburn Fire Department crews and Kittanning Township for bringing water whenever they are called.
Rayburn Fire Department treasurer and firefighter, Jeff Colo, said the department has been hauling water to the jail and other parts of the township since last Wednesday. Colo said that in addition to the jail, the department has been taking water to Erdley's Sunnyside Personal Care Home along Route 85, Orphans of the Storm animal shelter, a reserve tank on Poverty Hill, and to residents of Rayburn Manor Apartments.
He said the fire department receives its water from the Pennsylvania American Water Company and has no problem meeting the demands for water from other parts of the township. Although water deliveries are sure to boost the department's water bill, Colo said it's diesel fuel, at a cost of $5 per gallon, that will prove to be the biggest expense in water delivery.
Rayburn fire chief Henry Bellas said that as of Tuesday morning, the department had used 67 gallons of fuel in its tanker truck to deliver water.
Brozenick said he is in the process of obtaining additional water buffaloes from Indiana County and several pallets of bottled drinking water from Allegheny County for distribution to Rayburn residents.
"We have to determine the best places to set these things up," Brozenick said, "so that they will be convenient for the greatest number of people."
He added that he has contacted Fox's Water Service of Cabot, to see if the county can obtain several 8,000-gallon tankers to supplement the 250-gallon water buffaloes.
Today at 5 p.m. Rayburn Fire Department will pass out bottled water at the fire hall for township residents.
Tirpak said that while Rayburn and parts of Kittanning Township may be without water service for several more days, Manorville and McGrann residents were expected to have water restored by 4 or 5 p.m. Tuesday. Tirpak said Tuesday's water outage affecting the two communities was part of a planned shutdown so Stallion Construction crews could finish installing a water pressure reducing system. That shutdown is not related to the outage affecting Rayburn.
Meanwhile, Manor Township crews are continuing to work on the problem, trying to locate the suspected air blockage.