First it was Toledo, Ohio, where a toxic algal bloom at the city’s Lake Erie drinking-water intake prompted hundreds of thousands of area residents to fan out across the region in search of bottled water when officials declared the tap off limits. Then last weekend, a water main break in Bay City, Michigan, rapidly depleted municipal water-supply reserves.
And on Thursday, officials in another city, New London, Connecticut, declared a water emergency when a major water main break prompted initial warnings that the city could run out of water entirely.
Local water providers and municipal officials in those cities had to go into emergency mode having to communicate with local and state officials, plus the public, about the severity of the situations their respective local water supplies were facing.
There was early good news in Connecticut: The local water authority, which supplies New London and Waterford, quickly identified the source of the leak. By mid afternoon Thursday, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, said that water pressure was stabilizing throughout the city and the leak was 90 percent contained.
But, the mayor stressed on Facebook: “It is essential that the public continues to cooperate fully with the mandatory restriction on any nonessential water use.”
“This could have been a full blown catastrophe for us,” Finizio said, according to The Hartford Courant.
The situation in Bay City was different because the source of the water-main break could not be immediately pinpointed as water supplies reserves began to rapidly drop.
On the second day of Bay City’s water crisis, city Public Works Director Dave Harran said, according to MLive.com: "This is urgent. If we run out of water, then we go on boil alert. It's not a good situation right now. Because of the water loss, it's bleeding the system and all of our water reserves will be exhausted."
The water-usage emergency started Saturday and was lifted on Tuesday after the cause was identified. The city had mandated that all residents only use the tap for emergency needs and cease watering lawns and washing cars. They also urged residents to continue to cut back water use when the emergency was lifted to allow city water supplies to stabilize.
Bay City’s infrastructure failure, which caused 20 million gallons of water to leak into the Saginaw River through an abandoned 36-inch water main, was hard to find. Although a temporary fix was made, local officials are examining options for a long-term repair, which could take months.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy partially activated the state’s emergency operations center to monitor the situation in New London as city crews work to repair the break.
“After assessing the situation with emergency management officials, I have directed a partial activation of the state EOC,” Malloy said in a statement. “This will allow us to continue to support requests for assistance and maintain a unified coordinated response to help the City of New London. I have spoken to Mayor Finizio and offered any state resources that may be necessary.”