Students at Lonoke School District will return to school on Wednesday, after the city boil order was lifted Tuesday morning.
Lonoke School Board president Ross Moore said Monday, closing school was a precautionary after the city was placed under a boil order on Friday. Students returned to school on Thursday, after being closed Tuesday and Wednesday for inclement weather, only to be closed on Friday, Monday and Tuesday for water issues.
“School is to resume on Wednesday,” Moore said on Monday night. “Assuming the tests come back good tomorrow.”
Last Thursday Jan. 18, Lonoke public works department employees battled two major water leaks, which resulted in the city water reserves to be completely depleted and leaving residents without water for days.
“We fought it for so long, it just drained the system,” Water superintendent Jim Kelly said Monday. “We had a low level to start due to the first break.”
Kelly said both leaks happened at the intersection of North Front and North Center streets. Workers began working to make repairs to a water main break at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18 and had the line partially repaired by 6 p.m. Kelly said he believes the break was due to both the weather conditions and the age of the line, estimating it to be about 80 years old.
Around 8 p.m. that night, Kelly said the second valve leak began, which resulted in the complete depletion of city water reserves.
“The second leak occurred during an attempt to isolate the first leak, Kelly said. “ The valve used to isolate it was just as old and it blew apart when we attempted to operate it.”
Crews worked through the night, despite below freezing temperatures. Kelly said the second repair was completed around 3 a.m. on Friday morning and water began returning to residents about an hour later. A drinking water boil order was put into place for residents until water samples could be tested by the State Health Department.
Kelly said a complete system flush was conducted on Saturday, in an effort to purge the lines. Localized samples were then taken and tested, which all came back good Kelly said. Unfortunately, due to the weekend, samples were unable to be submitted to the Health Department until Monday morning. Kelly said he was sitting in the parking lot of the Health Department at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, to hand over the water samples when the Heath Department opened their doors.
“I’m confident results tomorrow will be good,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s confidence was correct. The tests, which took 18 hours to complete, did, indeed, come back good. The city’s boil order was lifted at 9:56 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23.
According to Kelly, the leak was just another day on the job. He said city workers repair an average of 300 leaks per year, but few are the magnitude of the one last week.