Computer parts problem leads to dry day in SalemSalem water use halted on hot day after city's water treatment plant shut down.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
SALEM — A water shortage looms in Salem after the city’s water treatment plant was shut down Wednesday.
City officials said a failure of the plant’s computer-run control system led to the problem. The city hopes to have water back on today.
Bill Selland, the city’s water and sewer superintendent, said the malfunction occurred sometime between 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday, when he discovered the system was not running.
Technicians worked all day Wednesday to diagnose the problem, which was found to be a failed computer component in the plant’s control system.
A replacement part was ordered and is expected to arrive today, Selland said. Until the part is installed, the plant will be unable to process water.
A public notice issued by the city shortly before 5 p.m. said the city could be without running water for much of today before the part is installed and the plant is operational again.
Residents are asked not to use any water. Word of the shortage was spread by a notice on the city’s website, a mass e-mail sent out by the Progressive Salem Association and a handwritten sign standing in the intersection of N. Main St. and W. Vermont Ave.
As water is no longer flowing through the treatment facility, the city has issued a water-usage ban in order to conserve what remains of the usable water.
“The worst-case scenario is we’re going to run out of water,” Selland said.
If water runs out, the empty water lines can lose their pressure and be damaged when they are pressurized again, according to the city’s public notice.
McCook County Emergency Manager Brad Stiefvater arranged for a backup sup- ply of drinking water to be trucked into the city.
City officials told residents that gallon jugs of water would be available at the Salem Armory Wednesday night and those without the means to pick up the water could call Salem City Hall and arrange to have it delivered. That number is 425-2301.
For many locals, life in Salem went on as normal in spite of the water shortage.
Don Schimmel worked on a partly deconstructed riding lawnmower in his garage in the 90-plus degree heat of the afternoon. Schimmel served as the City of Salem’s water and sewer superintendent for 34 years until he retired in 1992.
“It hasn’t been bothering us any,” Schimmel said when asked how he was coping with the water shortage.
He and his wife Vi live almost directly across from Salem City Hall, where the water treatment plant is located. They have lived there since 1959.
“They will find out what it is and they will fix it,” Schimmel said.
Though he went through his share of water shortages during his time as superintendent, Schimmel said a malfunctioning computer — the cause of the current crisis — was never the issue.
At The End Zone Bar & Grill, located on Main Street, a sign hung on the door informed patrons its bathrooms were closed, but bottled water was available. Despite the shortage, owner Randy Sabers said the bar had been full for lunch.
“So far, so good I think,” Sabers said, optimistic the problem with the water supply would be resolved before any serious problem occurred.
As of Wednesday evening, Mark Bormann, chief deputy of the McCook County Sheriff’s Office, said there had been no emergency calls from residents due to the water shortage on a hot day.
His only real concern was the possibility of a fire, he said.
Despite the heat and water shortage, golfers could still be seen on McCook Country Club’s nine-hole course.
Though no sprinklers could be seen running Wednesday afternoon, manager Trent Sabers said the course uses water pumped out of the river running through the grounds to stay green.
“It’s not really a problem here,” he said of the shortage.
And because Sabers lives in a rural area outside Salem, he gets his home water from the local rural water system.
“It’s not really going to bother me,” he said with a grin.