Boil order leads to school cancellations
A boil order from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shut schools in Hillsboro on Thursday and Friday after a problem developed with one of the city’s water pumps.
Water samples came back clean Friday afternoon.
While chlorine levels indicated the water was probably safe, superintendent Max Heinrichs said he would rather not take a chance.
“Everybody cautioned me and said it would be best to let school pass today,” he said.
Even if the district held classes and warned students not to use the water, it would have been impossible to enforce, Heinrichs said.
“One of the things you have to look at is water safety,” he said. “It would be hard for us to monitor every water fountain.”
Part of the difficulty with a limited water supply is that it’s needed for everything from cleaning food to open wounds, Heinrichs said.
“There are so many ways water touches that many people,” he said.
While Heinrichs was taking precautionary measures, Dale’s Supermarket ran out of bottled water and saw an uptick in customers using its water vending machine.
The machine uses reverse osmosis, charcoal filters, and disinfecting UV light to clean water, making it safe for consumption.
Thursday was the first time the supermarket’s water vending machine was needed because of a boil order, owner Dale Franz said.
Franz said he was not sure how often the machine was used before, but said he noticed a significant increase Thursday and Friday.
The store’s supply of bottled water was restocked Friday, he said.
Hillsboro school district bought a reserve of water Thursday for future emergencies, but the 1,000 bottles only would have lasted until noon, Heinrichs said.
“It took a lot of time to make the decision because I pay taxes too,” he said. “I want to be accountable to everything and everybody.”
He said the district had plenty of days available to cancel school.
City administrator Larry Paine said he agreed that caution was in order.
“I could say ‘I think we’ll be OK,’ but until you get the lab results and it’s confirmed by KDHE, it’s hard to say definitively,” he said. “I have a lot of hope. I’m an optimist, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s out of our control.”
City employees spent Thursday going door-to-door delivering 1,100 copies of KDHE’s boil order.
“These are the kinds of things we’ll continue to train for,” he said. “When the more serious problems come along, we’ll have a leg up.”
Last modified March 13, 2019