Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland and St. Clair counties on Sunday following a water main break near the water treatment facility at the Lake Huron from the Great Lakes Water Authority.
The 120-inch water transmission break initially prompted a boil water advisory for nearly two dozen communities on Saturday, and water officials say it could be around two weeks before until it is fully repaired.
Whitmer said the state is using all available resources to help affected families.
“On Saturday, I activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate our response efforts, and with the declaration of a state of emergency (Sunday), we are ensuring that state resources will be available for as long as affected communities need them. In times of crisis, Michiganders stand together. We will do what it takes to get through this,” Whitmer said in a statement.
The statement authorizes Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and the Division of Homeland Security to coordinate state efforts. Coordinators are on the scene with local emergency management officials and supporting emergency operations centers, Whitmer said Sunday.
“It is vital that our residents have reliable and safe infrastructure, our water infrastructure is critical,” said Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak.
Authorities were waiting for a part to fix the break, said Michelle Zdrodowski, a spokeswoman for GLWA. The repair will take about a week, Zdrodowski said, and it will take another week for water quality testing.
Zdrodowski said crews worked through the night trying to repair the damage caused by the burst water main, which was discovered early Saturday.
Crews have isolated the fault, which is about a mile west of the Lake Huron water treatment facility, and are “dewatering” the area in preparation for repairs. There are four 8-inch pumps working to drain the water, she said.
“The good news is we have this new piece of pipe for replacement and repair, it’s on its way to us from Texas,” she said.
The authority is investigating the cause of the water main break. It is not yet known how much the breakage and subsequent repairs will cost.
On Sunday, a precautionary boil water advisory was lifted for five more communities: Chesterfield Township, Lenox Township, Mayfield Township, Macomb Township and the Village of New Haven.
Seven communities with a total population of approximately 133,000 remain under the boil water advisory:
- Village of Almont
- Township of Bruce
- Township of Burtchville
- City of Imlay
- Township of Shelby
- Washington Township
Water pressure was restored to communities on Sunday by changing the direction of water pumping in the conveyance system, the authority said. Although not at normal levels, the water flow will be enough to be used for sanitary purposes, he said.
“GLWA understands the real impact this water main break is having on the…people in the affected communities and we truly appreciate their patience and understanding as we work to implement the necessary repairs,” Suzanne R Coffey, chief executive, the officer said in a press release.
The rupture was originally reported as potentially affecting 935,000 Michigan residents across the 23 communities, but due to the response, Whitmer said, the impact is significantly lower than expected.
Whitmer activated the state emergency operations center at 4 p.m. Saturday “to ensure that all possible resources are available to GLWA and affected communities to achieve this goal.”
Residents under the boil water advisory are advised not to drink their water without first boiling it for at least one minute and allowing it to cool. When water systems lose pressure, there is a risk of bacterial contamination.
These bacteria are generally not harmful, the water authority said, but boiling it will guarantee the death of any harmful organisms. Boiled, bottled or disinfected water should be used for drinking, washing dishes and preparing food until the advisory is removed.
The Village of Almont on Facebook asked residents on Sunday to minimize water use when operating a relief well and water tower.
“The Village of Almont water system has not yet lost pressure, so the boil water advisory was issued out of an abundance of caution,” the village posted on Facebook. “Please conserve the water as the pressure will continue to decrease until the main break is repaired which GLWA estimate is two weeks. We have the relief well running in order to maintain the pressure if this pressure begins to decrease. .”
Washington Township Supervisor Sebastian Sam Previti said he was working with the Macomb County Water Authority and Emergency Management Team to get water to residents.
“We’re also working with the county and state to secure drinking water for distribution to residents and lock down the logistics of that,” Previti said. “I am also working with Clerk (Stanley) Babinski to secure water purchases as well as distribution. Stay tuned as this information is released. We ask that you please refrain from watering irrigation exterior during this time to help reduce water pressure.”
Staff writer Hannah Mackay contributed.