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Line breaks leave most of Shawnee without water

Shawnee city officials say they're unable to predict when water service will return to normal. Water line breaks have drained the city's water towers.
BY ANN KELLEY akelley@opubco.com Modified: August 2, 2011 at 7:55 pm •  Published: August 2, 2011
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— In Shawnee on Tuesday, dirty dishes went unwashed, showers were cut short and toilets could not be flushed as fractured waterlines left many without water and others with almost no water pressure.


The temperature in Shawnee climbed past 110 degrees — a less-than-ideal day for an entire city to be in a water crisis. The problem was discovered about 9 p.m. Monday and by Tuesday morning, all four of the city's water towers were dry.

Throughout the day, water sporadically spurted from some facets, providing false hope that the problems were remedied.

“It's hard to really know where to go and who is affected, because it changes by the hour,” Shawnee resident Jay Scott Brown said. “It's not like the whole town is dry, but it's happening intermittently everywhere.”

The water problem also plagued customers in Meeker and a rural water district in the Bethel Acres area supplied by Shawnee. Water to those residents was shut off Tuesday afternoon.

City officials estimated the water issue affected more than 25,000 households and businesses.

State of emergency

Shawnee Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said the city was losing about 5,000 gallons of water a minute and having difficultly finding all the fractured lines. By Tuesday evening, crews had made repairs to a main waterline along Kickapoo Street, but there were still numerous problems throughout the area.

Lynch said the line fractures were being caused by extreme heat causing shifts in the ground.

Vice Mayor Billy Collier issued a proclamation declaring the water problem a disaster and the city in a state of emergency.

In the proclamation, all outdoor watering and burning were prohibited until further notice. Anyone caught doing either could be fined up to $500.

Lynch said for the next few days, everyone in the city needed to conserve water until the towers could refill. He said residents should use water for cooking or drinking only.

“It may mean you have to put off doing laundry for a few days or leaving the dishes undone,” Lynch said. “If everyone panics and starts hoarding water the system could take longer to rebound.”

A voluntary boil order was issued by the city because pressure failures in the system have a potential of contaminating the water. Lynch said water should be brought to a full rolling boil for one minute before it's used for drinking, wound care, cooking or tooth brushing.

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