Local residents scurried to grocery stores Monday night and braved Tuesday morning's heavy snowfall in order to purchase bottled water by the case – and sometimes by the pallet — following a boil advisory issued Monday evening by the city of Maryville.
The advisory is expected to stay in effect until Thursday morning. All tap water used for drinking, cooking or brushing teeth should be boiled vigorously for at least three minutes. For other precautions, go to www.dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/boil.
Rural users hooked up to Nodaway County Public Water Supply District No. 1 were unaffected, according to a City Hall release.
Walmart Supercenter manager Lonnie Scheffe said the store's entire stock of bottled water sold out in about three hours Monday with some customers literally filling up their cars.
Scheffe said Tuesday morning the store was trying to restock and had put in an emergency order to soft drink distributorships in St. Joseph.
Hy-Vee manager Chris Wiltfong said he learned about the advisory around 8 p.m. Monday and was able to order 20 pallets of water from the grocery chain's distribution center in Chariton, Iowa. The delivery arrived around 3 a.m. Tuesday, Wiltfong said, and the pallets were immediately set out on the floor. Sales were brisk, even during Tuesday's blizzard.
"We're a little tight on the gallon water, but right now we're in pretty good shape," Wiltfong said.
Kylie Dyche, who works at Pagliai's Pizza, was at Hy-Vee Tuesday morning stocking up with several cases so that the popular local eatery could keep serving customers. Other volume buyers reportedly included the Maryville R-II School District, which purchased an entire pallet of water at Walmart Monday night.
The boil advisory forced Northwest Missouri State University to cover water fountains and limit campus dining options. Bottled water was provided for students in their residence halls, and employees and students living off campus were urged to bring water from home.
The City of Maryville issued the boil advisory around 7:30 p.m. Monday as a "precautionary measure" following a significant drop in water pressure in some parts of the city. The pressure problem resulted from a broken water main, which blew out a fitting late Sunday morning, according to lead plant operator Joe Finch of PeopleService.
Such pressure drops can cause water to siphon backward through pipes and potentially cause contamination from household toilets and other fixtures.
Though the pipe was quickly repaired, neighborhoods in the north and southwest parts of town still experienced low pressure for a brief period on Monday, resulting in the advisory.
Full pressure has been restored, according to a City Hall release, but anyone who experiences further problems is urged to call the water plant at (660) 562-3713.
Page 2 of 2 - Finch said the L-shaped fitting on the six-inch plastic pipe failed due to mechanical wear and tear precipitated over time by a phenomenon known as a "water hammer," a pressure surge caused when liquid in motion is forced to stop or change direction suddenly. On a much smaller scale, the same thing happens when someone turns off a garden hose or a household faucet.
"It's a mechanical system," Finch said. "There is friction and stuff that's moving around. Eventually, any mechanical system is going to fail."
He added that part of the problem may have been tied to the facility's original design, which employed plastic rather than metal pipes for some applications. The plastic pipe that broke fed directly into an 18-inch metal pipe leading to a "clear well," a sort of holding tank that is the last stop for treated water before it enters the city's network of underground mains.
The fitting failure flooded part of the lower level of the treatment plant, where at one point the water level reached about four feet.
Complications arising from the mishap meant that PeopleService staff where manually setting levels Tuesday where water flows through a series of filter membranes. Installed a couple of years ago at a cost of more than $2 million, the membranes can sustain serious damage if not kept submerged.