Limited nonpotable water started to flow in Mancos on Tuesday evening after pumps failed Sunday at the water-treatment plant and cut off water. Officials anticipate restoring full service by Monday.
The water should be boiled if used for almost anything besides toilets, Karen Dickson, a public-health official said.
Andrea Phillips, town administrator, presented the good news to a full Town Hall on Tuesday shortly after water was restored and toilets began flushing again.
“It was the best sound I’ve ever heard,” she said.
A temporary pump was installed Tuesday, and the town brought in a backup as well. The town was put on a boil alert, and National Honors Society high school students helped distributed the notices to all impacted water users.
Rural Mancos water users were not affected. Water will be tested thoroughly before it is declared safe, and the state will test the water over the weekend, Dickson said.
For the first few days of restored service, the water will be discolored because of air in the system and mineral deposits that will be knocked free from the pressure changes in the pipes, said Public Works Operator Robin Schmittel. It also will have a strong smell of chlorine to kill the bacteria.
“You’re going to smell it, but it won’t harm you,” he said.
Fire hydrants will be opened to purge the system Wednesday morning. This is normal procedure, and water is not being wasted. Large quantities of water will be released. Residents are advised to drive with care because of standing water.
To restore water, a new pump had to be brought from California. It is scheduled to arrive and to be installed Thursday.
Residents at Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting voiced concern the town’s backup system failed Sunday.
The town administrator said the town had learned a lot from the failure and will be building in more redundancies into the system.
She also said town officials will follow up with organizations like Mancos Rural Water Co. on agreements. These agreements would allow the town to share resources with other water agencies and help the town handle emergencies better in the future.
Schmittel said the cold was not a factor in the pump’s failure.
“That just happens sometimes,” he said. He said the backup system is tested yearly.
The town is still providing bottled water as well as a tanker with potable water in front of Town Hall. Showers are available at the Cortez Recreation Center for $2.50 with proof of Mancos residency.
The town is supplying 5 gallons per person per day and three bottles per person per day. Town Hall hours have been extended to 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. for the duration of the emergency.
Estimates are not yet available on how much the water tanker and other emergency efforts might cost the town.
Some normalcy to everyday life will return Wednesday when school reopens.
Superintendent Brian Hanson said students will be using hand sanitizer instead of washing their hands, and the cafeteria will be providing food.
The schools and health clinic were closed Monday and Tuesday.
Other major water users, like restaurants, were notified, and most of them closed. Water was delivered to Valley Inn Nursing Home in Mancos.
About 30 portable potties were set up throughout the town.
Residents were encouraged to turn off ice machines, so the water isn’t contaminated by nonpotable water, Dickson said. All ice should also be thrown out. Residents may turn on the pilot of their hot-water heater now that water is flowing, Fire Chief Tony Aspromonte said. Residents were asked to turn them off during the outage to prevent cracking in the heaters.
At Tuesday’s meeting, town resident Mike Shaw was hopeful safe water service would return before Monday.
His girlfriend got sick on the day the town lost water, and he was struggling to care for her.
“It’s been hectic, taking care of her and taking care of the water,” he said.
The call for volunteers and donations was met with a community outpouring on Monday.
The Mancos Fire District, the Red Cross, Walmart and others donated water. Town volunteers delivered water to homebound residents.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response,” Mayor Rachael Simbeck said.
Gray Stecher, 10, and Eireland Fagan, 12, began volunteering at 6 a.m. at Town Hall and stayed most of the day filling jugs and helping people load water into cars. Another student River Martucci joined them in the afternoon.
Gray came by in the morning to pick up water for his family and stayed when he saw the need for help.
“It seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.
Although most restaurants were closed Monday, P&D Grocery was able to stay open after the health department gave it the clear to bring small containers of water filled at homes supplied by Mancos Rural Water, said Rob Kirks, a partner in the business.
He said bringing water in using small containers was time consuming, but their employees made it possible.
“We’ve never closed for 40 years,” Kirks said.
Liz and John Trevithick came into the P&D on Monday afternoon to buy a water container for Liz’s elderly parents.
Liz Trevithick said her parents, who are in their 80s, were handling it all with a good sense of humor and ladling water from 5-gallon buckets to flush toilets.
“They are laughing about it,” she said.
She said she was happy with how the town was handling the outage.
A few other businesses not as reliant on water also stayed open including the Artisans of Mancos. Dick Young, one of the artisans, had about five customers Monday morning, and about four of them were tourists.
“The tourists are still here I guess. They haven’t tried to eat or flush the toilet,” Young said, jokingly.
Residents who need help to move water are encouraged to call Town Hall at 533-7725.
Residents can call 533-1431 for a recording with updates.
Public officials also encourage everyone in the county to sign up for updates at nixle.com . Contact information is confidential.