WELLSVILLE - Thousands of residents were left without water service Friday following a catastrophic main line break just north of Yellow Creek in Madison Township.
Affected areas included Calcutta, Glenmoor, Shadyside, West Point, the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton and even the state highway patrol post in Lisbon.
As of Friday evening, Buckeye Water District officials estimated that service could be restored to between 5,000 and 7,000 customers by Saturday morning. A boil advisory was issued along with the break announcement until further notice.
According to BWD assistant manager Todd Brown, the break occurred at 10:30 a.m. Friday as workers from Madison Township were driving stakes into the ground along the north side of Township Line Road, marking the presence of an underground drain culvert pipe that is slated for replacement.
Brown says township workers did not observe the blue-capped Buckeye Water line marker poles, on both sides of Township Line Road at the Mick Road intersection. "It was a human mistake. It was an accident," he said.
At the intersection with Mick Road, one of those stakes was driven into the top of a 16-inch main delivery line running from the BWD treatment plant in Wellsville to the Calcutta area and points north. This opened a crack running the length of the 20-foot-long section of pipe, which runs parallel to Mick Road.
The break quickly drained a pair of 100,000-gallon water storage tanks - one on Campground Road, the other on Irish Ridge - before Buckeye workers were able to shut off all the service valves.
According to Brown, the process of actually cutting the cracked section of pipe, removing it and replacing it with a new section would only take a handful of hours. The much more involved, time-consuming process would come afterward, from refilling the long network of pipes with water.
"It will take hours and hours to fill the pipelines back up and repressurize the system, because it's such a large area that is depressurized now," he said.
Brown says the pipeline can't be refilled with water quickly because, having been cut open, the system becomes full of air. "That can cause you another leak if you fill it too fast," he said. Instead, the system would need to be bled of air, with BWD workers opening dozens of district fire hydrants, before water could begin flowing through the system again.
Though hundreds of families were affected by the water shutoff, it also caused disruption for many of the businesses located along state Route 170 in Calcutta, especially restaurants. Some fast-food establishments cut back to drive-through service only on Friday, but that option was not available to some restaurants, which had to close early.
One of those was the Bob Evans located on Dresden Avenue at state Route 170. Restaurant manager Mike Gurskey said they had to begin turning away customers at around 3:30 p.m. By that point, there was no longer sufficient water pressure to use the restaurant's toilets.
"When you don't have restrooms, you can't operate. That's the ultimate final straw," he said.
Whatever the restaurant's losses may have been for Friday, Gurskey was looking to make it up with the breakfast crowd on Saturday morning. "I'm hoping we have water by six," he said. "I've got my fingers crossed."