Providing healthy water for consumption was a top concern in Ottawa Tuesday and Wednesday after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) issued a boil water advisory.
KDHE officials issued the advisory for Ottawa Tuesday afternoon because compressed air entered the water distribution system during maintenance on the irrigation system at the high school, 1120 S. Ash, Ottawa, which puts the system at risk for contamination, a press release said.
City officials said Wednesday morning a water sample was sent to KDHE lab in Topeka and they were awaiting the results. Officials said they would not receive any updates from the lab until after 8 a.m. today.
City officials said any updates will be released when they become available.
City officials said no rural water districts were effected.
The Ottawa school district provided bottled water Wednesday for students and staff as a cautionary measure, Dr. Jeanne Stroh, superintendent, said Wednesday.
“I don’t think anybody believes that there’s any danger, but we certainly wanted to take every precaution that we could,” she said. “Our maintenance folks went to Walmart [Tuesday] night and talked with them, and they had water delivered to their store and then our maintenance folks picked it up about 6 [Wednesday] morning. Mr. [Josh] Robinson, Dr. [Ryan] Cobbs and I met them at different schools and helped deliver water. We had great students at the middle and high schools who also helped. We had all the water delivered about 7:30 a.m. or a quarter to 8. It’s a big undertaking with 2,450 [students] and about 450 employees, but safety and security are certainly most important, and we just wanted to make sure that we could have school without a hitch and that we didn’t have any concerns about illness or anything.”
Stroh said water is available for each student and staff member of all the schools. She said the district purchased between 8,000 and 10,000 bottles of water.
“We put one case, which is 35 bottles, in every single classroom, and at least five cases at each building,” Stroh said. “Our maintenance people are just rock stars. We have water still in our maintenance building that we’ll deliver so that everybody has water to start the day [Thursday], and hopefully after that, we can take the plastic off of our drinking fountains and go on with life.”
Public water fountains throughout the city had signs posted telling patrons not to drink the water.
“The water is usable, except for consumption,” Dennis Tharp, city utilities director, said Tuesday afternoon. “There is water pressure. If you are going to drink it or cook with it, it needs to be boiled. We don’t want anybody to get sick.”
Starbucks, located inside Price Chopper, 120 E. 19th St., Ottawa, was closed Wednesday because of the boil order, and will not reopen until it is rescinded, a manager said.
Charlie Waymire, Price Chopper manager, said people flooded the store to buy bottled water within minutes following the announcement of the boil advisory.
“We are pretty much dried up,” he said Wednesday morning. “It will be [Thursday] morning [before we get another shipment]. There is always a run, people need water.”
Waymire said Price Chopper provided bottled water to Ransom Memorial Hospital and Ottawa University.
Ottawa University tweeted Tuesday afternoon that bottled water was available for students at the front desk of the residence halls and Hetrick Bistro, the campus cafeteria.
Herald Staff Writer Susan Welte contributed to this report.