Selbyville residents were instructed to boil their tap water for about 48 hours this week to prevent possible transmission of E coli.
On Tuesday, July 14, the Selbyville Water Department alerted residents that a broken water main could cause E coli to contaminate the water supply.
“On July 13, 2015, a water main was broken and drained the water tower,” stated the townwide flier. “This resulted in the possibility that E. coli bacteria can get into the water supply. These bacteria can make you sick and are a particular concern for people with weakened immune systems,” including babies, young children and others with severely compromised immune systems.
E. coli had not been confirmed to be present in the water at that time, and the boil-water order was made just as a precaution. Officials announced Wednesday afternoon that testing of the water supply by the Delaware Division of Public Health’s Office of Drinking Water had shown there was no contamination with E. coli, and they lifted the boil-water alert.
Town water was shut off on Monday night after Chesapeake Utilities struck a water main near Church Street and Baker Alley, around 5:30 or 6 p.m.
“They were digging for their gas line they’re going to run, and they hit a 12-inch water main,” said Town Administrator Mike Deal on Tuesday. “That’s the main water pipe for the town of Selbyville.
“This was a flow going out of town, but all the water just drained from the towers. … We lost everything,” Deal said. “But then we got the crews on it. They worked diligently to get it repaired, which they did.”
Just how many gallons were lost, Deal did not know. But there was “a lot of water running down the street.”
Part of Church Street was closed until the pipe was repaired around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. The town wells began refilling the towers, and the water plant came back online. Extra chlorine was added to the system to disinfect the water.
However, water pressure was still weak mid-week, and residents were asked to not use lawn irrigation until full service was restored.
Three agencies were hard at work on the night of the incident.
“Chesapeake company has their own guys for that scenario; we had our town people; and we had a private contractor who does a lot of the water work in town,” Deal said.
Asked about any potential gas fumes in the area, Deal said, “I was there at the site, and the only fumes I was picking up was the diesel — they were using diesel equipment.”
Despite the water problem, children still attended daycares and summer school in town this week. Southern Delaware School of the Arts provided clean bottled water and prepackaged food to students and staff after learning about the contamination. Cleaning was to be done with a bleach-water combination.
“E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes [which] can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms,” the flier explained.
For more information, call Town Hall at (302) 436-8314, the Selbyville water plant at (302) 436-8349 or Delaware Office of Drinking Water at (302) 426-4791. The water test results were also to be posted online at www.townofselbyville.com.