Shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, Zearing City officials let their community know, through social media, that the repair to a broken water main had been fixed. This repair was welcome news to the community, which had been under a boil water advisory since very early Monday morning.
The water disruption created early week hassles for residents, the schools and local businesses.
Superintendent of Colo-NESCO Schools, Jim Walker, said he and the principals of the Colo-NESCO elementary school in Zearing received a message early Monday morning about the problem.
“Since they were struggling to find the leak yet this morning,” Walker said on Monday, “we decided with the low (water) pressure and other concerns…we weren’t set up for students to deal with that situation today.” Colo-NESCO closed the Zearing building only on Monday, which meant there were no classes for the students who attend that building, which serves grades kindergarten through fourth.
Zearing City Clerk Karen Davis provided an occasional update Monday, as she said crews were working feverishly to find it.
Story County Emergency Management Coordinator Keith Morgan sent out a message to the press stating that the break had happened somewhere near the intersection of West Grant Street and South Central Street in Zearing, and that water service had been shut down to the town while crews tried to get repairs made.
Morgan said breaks can happen in the winter months because the “freeze-thaw cycle causes movement in the soil around the water pipes, putting stress on the pipes and in some cases, fractures. Older pipes tend to be weaker and are more susceptible to this stress.”
Morgan added that other environmental factors in the winter can make the repairs difficult. “Major winter storms can really compound these problems,” he said. “Getting people to the site to mark other utilities, transportation of special heavy equipment may be difficult, or extremely cold temperatures can hinder those making repairs. We have some really dedicated public works people here in Story County that do some fantastic work under difficult conditions to ensure the lights stay on and that we have heat and water.”
Residents of Zearng were advised on Monday not to drink the town’s water without boiling it first or to use bottled water for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth and preparing food.
Zearing resident Kaitlyn Warren, talked about the situation on Monday. “Everyone is boiling everything. I have to keep my young kids from trying to get themselves a cup of water, but besides it being annoying, it is otherwise manageable.”
Walker was feeling a little like a juggler with a lot of balls in the air. The water main break, a storm coming in, a district basketball game planned for Monday night in Colo, and another Tuesday night, plus the fact that the schools had already missed six days due to weather were all factors weighing on his mind. It all had school officials living hour by hour, deciding what the next cancellation or make-up possibility might be.
Walker said the school was planning Monday for what they might need for water if restoring water took a few days. “We’re working on a plan that if we’re in school tomorrow, we’re purchasing bottled water — small bottles in large quantity — to be prepared,” he said Monday.
The storm ended up causing Colo-NESCO to cancel classes district-wide Tuesday.
Shortly after announcing the break had been found, the City of Zearing announced: “They are flushing hydrants as we speak. Please be patient as we get water restored. You may have rusty looking water due to the low water pressure, but the hydrant flushing will solve that problem.”