The town of Sackville took the unusual step last week of issuing a boil water advisory for about 290 customers in Middle Sackville and announcing it publicly.
“Usually boil water orders are isolated to five, 10, 20 or 30 customers and we can hand deliver notices to them,” Town Engineer Dwayne Action told The New Wark Times. “But in this case, we had to publicize it widely because so many people were affected.”
The town announced the advisory on its website and social media on Friday evening, January 4th before phoning affected customers who had signed up for Sentinel, Sackville’s emergency public alert system. Town workers also delivered notices to customers the next day.
The advisory to bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute before using it for human consumption was issued after the top of a valve that controls water on Marshview Drive blew off.
“In order for us to fix that, we had to shut down the Main Street water main,” Acton says, “and that’s where we had to shut down basically all of Middle Sackville,” he adds.
“As soon as you shut down a water main and de-pressurize it, the department of health automatically puts you on a precautionary boil order.”
Water service was quickly restored to Middle Sackville, but the town could not guarantee it was safe for human consumption until samples could be tested over the weekend at RPC, a certified laboratory in Moncton.
“When you de-pressurize a main, you have the ability for backflow,”Acton says, explaining that water can enter the main from the pipes in houses or commercial properties.
“It means we have no control over what could come back into our system,” he says. “We have to flush the lines, sample them and put everyone on a precautionary boil order.”
The town informed customers the boil advisory had been lifted on Monday, January 7 after sampling determined the water was safe.
Acton says water main breaks happen all the time, but in most cases, workers can repair them while maintaining pressure.
“It’s not easy to do, it’s not fun to do, but our guys are trained and they have the ability to repair a broken water main, depending on the situation, we can repair it under pressure,” he says. “In this particular case, we were not able to do that because it was the top of a valve that came directly off.”