Crews work to correct a water main break in front of Walmart July 21.

A major water main break in Watseka has caused parts of the city to be under a boil order until further notice.

The break happened about 11 a.m. Wednesday. Dustin Standish, a department head of the city’s water department, said the electronic system that monitors the wells, tower levels and water pressure in the city was notifying the water employees that the levels were dropping they were also getting a call saying that a water main break had happened.

Crews that are installing fiber optic cable had hit the water main, he said. While all of the utilities had sent employees to mark their lines, there are times when something can be off or mismarked. Standish said Watseka water employees had used the existing maps to mark where the water lines are in the area. As the crews worked to fix the problem they found that what was hit was a buried valve box that was leftover from before Walmart was built. That valve and line were not on the current maps, he said.

“We had the 12-inch main marked, but we didn’t know the 8-inch lateral was there,” he said.

Standish said when a break happens there are many things to take into consideration. Most importantly is the safety of the workers involved and the safety of the residents. He also was concerned about the hospital and making sure the water pressure was adequate there.

He said when they received the readings for the low levels in the tower they were able to change over to a manual operations instead of relying on the automation. Even doing that, he said, the wells the readings were very low.

The valve that was hit knocked the cap off and water was flowing into the street. Standish said he called Iroquois Paving Corporation to help with the work because the break was so deep and he was concerned about safety. Ameren sent a crew to steady the pole that was in the area and the crews all worked together to get the water stopped.

The crews worked together to get the problem resolved. Most of the crews working were sent home around 10:30 p.m., he said. Standish stayed to get some of the testing done before going home. A boil order was issued around 7:30 p.m. That boil order is north of East Walnut from North Tenth Street east to the city limits.

On July 22, he said, one of the water employees was sent with the water sample to Peoria. He said the city has to have two samples pass the testing before the boil order can be lifted. On July 23 the second sample was being driven to Peoria. Standish said he wanted to make sure the samples got to their destination in a timely manner and didn’t want to take a chance with an outside courier.

In the meantime, the water department was notified of a water main break on the other side of town which also had to be taken care of on July 22. While not as big as the one in front of Walmart, he said, the crews had to take care of that break immediately, which meant restoration on the area dug up in front of Walmart had to wait until that other break was fixed.

City officials were just this week again talking about a computerized mapping system that would allow employees to update where all the city utilities are in town. In doing so, Standish said, the old lines will be marked as well as new ones and down the road such problems might not occur.

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