AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Residents in Austintown and Canfield Townships can safely drink tap water as of Tuesday morning, according to a Youngstown Water Department press release, after losing water pressure Sunday evening.
Restaurants still have to follow several steps before they can use water as normal, according to the release:
- Flush the building’s water lines for at least two minutes
- Clean faucet screens
- Clean the water line strainers on mechanical dishwashing machines and similar equipment
- Purge all water-using fixtures and appliances of standing water (ice machines, beverages makers, hot water heaters, etc.)
- Clean and sanitize all fixtures, sinks and equipment connected to the waterlines.
Guidelines for restaurants on what to do when an interruption of potable water occurs and what to do after the boil advisory has been lifted can be found here.
When the problem started around 7 p.m. Sunday, crews were not sure what was wrong, other than that water levels at one of the Austintown Township tanks were well below normal. Eventually, the problem was traced back to the Youngstown Water Department’s Webb Road pump station.
“When the electric went out, the backup generator kicked on. It goes through the start-up sequence, then the power came back on the generator shutoff –back and forth,” said Gene Leson, water department engineer. “It appears it happened six times, and the generator came on and them that sixth time that power came on it actually tripped the power at the station.”
The incident took residents like Vince McElfresh by complete surprise.
“We would like to know what is going on, what exactly the problem is, and how long it is going to take to fix it so we can get a gameplan in what we need to do,” said McElfresh.
McElfresh was doing laundry Sunday when suddenly the water shut off in his Hillbrook apartment complex during the wash cycle.
“Luckily it went through the first cycle so we just had drying left to go, but it has been a little disapointing because we can’t water the animals or do anything else,” said McElfresh.
He added that he was most frustrated with the lack of information on the problem. He tried to call the water company but only got an answering machine because of so many calls coming in.
“They understand that there is a problem but if you want to wait on a line for a couple hours to find out what exactly is going on but average wait time is two hours,”said McElfresh.
Businesses as well as residents in the Austintown and Canfield areas lost water during the malfunction.
About a dozen businesses which WKBN spoke to said they experienced water pressure problems. Some, like Eat-n-Park on Mahoning closed for the night. Others like Savatore’s tried to stay open, but still turned customers away.
“At this point it is not the money, I am upset for people because it is Sunday, they come here to eat, have a good meal, and family, and kids, and we have to say I am sorry come back tomorrow,” said Savatore’s owner Michele Carannante.
Unwashed dishes were stacked in the back of the kitchen, the staff had to find other ways to try and clean off the dirty dishes.
“A nightmare; we try to provide water from the other store, bottle water and try to clean the dishes the best,” said Carannante.
On top of that, not being able to provide water to drink for customers, or even a working restroom, changes a customer’s experience.
“The service is not the same and we spend 12 hours a day to try and provide the best service possible and when these things happen it makes us a little upset,” explained Carannante.
Several other businesses in the area were also affected by the outage.
Crews fixed the issue, and now it’s a waiting game for water pressure to start restoring itself.
“You know it is tough because people our calling are dispatch centers, they are calling 911. And what we want people to understand is that 911 is for emergencies. And we do not have those answers at our police department. We were aware of the situation, we were getting them handled, but it is most important to call those who had the answers,” said Austintown Township trustee Jim Davis.
Davis said he hopes businesses were able to reopen after the incident and applauds the mayor and his staff for the quick response to the issue.