Break leaves 2,500 without water for 8 hours

A water line break left about 2,500 southern Bartholomew County residents without water for as long as eight hours.

The first of several leaks was detected shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday, Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. superintendent Don Smith said.

However, it took another 2½ hours before the problem was traced to a location near a water tower next to the Grainger Industrial Supply building on South National Road, Smith said.

About 7:30 p.m., one of the utility’s five maintenance workers discovered a 40-year-old coupling had given way on the water line, Smith said. Soon afterward, erosion of the ground resulted in a second leak from another water line connected to the damaged pipe, he said.

Water service was restored to many customers after the problem area was bypassed and an emergency line connected to a supply from Columbus City Utilities was activated, Smith said.

Although all customer water taps were working again by 1 a.m. Monday, those same customers were placed under a boil-water advisory until noon Wednesday, Eastern Bartholomew Water announced.

Those impacted should boil water for one minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers for drinking, cooking, making any prepared drinks or brushing teeth, the company stated.

Since the problem has only been temporarily patched, rather than repaired, some business and residential customers may experience a noticeable drop in water pressure for up to a month, Smith said.

The number of affected customers reminded Smith of the 2008 flood, when it took his staff four days to restore water to the town of Hope.

“This wasn’t as bad as the flood. But in my 30-year career, it certainly ranks near the top of our worst experiences,” Smith said.

Contributing to the time needed to restore water service was that all digging had to be done by hand in order not to disturb communications and electrical lines buried at the same location, Smith said.

Several affected residents contacted The Republic after they were unable to reach anyone at the utility Sunday evening to report the outage.

Eastern Bartholomew County Water Corp. employs a customer care specialist weekdays who answers the telephone from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to its website.

But during weekends, an answering service handles emergency calls, utility customer service representative Tina Ramsey said.

“They couldn’t keep up,” Ramsey said. “If this had happened late at night, fewer people would have noticed, and more calls would have been answered.”

The loss of water occurred as families were returning to their homes after spending Sunday outdoors, beginning to take showers to get ready for the new work and school week, Smith said.

“The timing was absolutely terrible,” he said.

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Based in Taylorsville, Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. serves more than 5,200 customers in northern, eastern and southern Bartholomew County, as well as parts of northwestern Jennings and southern Johnson counties.