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Residents of Madison urged not to use water

By Blake Nicholson Officials in the eastern South Dakota city of Madison hauled in bottled water by the semitrailer load Thursday after a water tank roof collapse left the community of 6,500 residents without drinkable water. The city is in the p...

By Blake Nicholson

Officials in the eastern South Dakota city of Madison hauled in bottled water by the semitrailer load Thursday after a water tank roof collapse left the community of 6,500 residents without drinkable water.

The city is in the process of replacing the 60-year-old, million-gallon underground well that feeds treated water to the city's water towers. Contractors were finishing up work for the day Wednesday evening when the nearby concrete-and-dirt covering caved in, contaminating the water. No one was hurt, and workers were at the scene, Mayor Roy Lindsay said.

"Otherwise it may have been something we didn't notice as fast," he said.

"We don't know what caused the collapse," the mayor said.

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Residents were asked not to use water - and to boil it if they did use it - while officials worked to pump the contaminated water into a nearby creek, clean up the mess and flush the system. The city has three water towers but only one is used during the winter so the water flow is fast enough to prevent the water from freezing in the towers.

Residents were expected to have clean water for showering, toilet flushing and other uses late Thursday, Lindsay said. However, water samples must be sent to Sioux Falls for testing before the water is declared potable.

"It will be Friday evening before we'll be able to tell people the water is safe to drink," the mayor said.

Public schools canceled classes Thursday. Dakota State University brought in bottled water for dining services and remained open.

Two stores in town were bringing in semi-loads of bottled water, and the city was bringing in two semi-loads too.

"Our first concerns are the hospital and the (two) nursing homes," Lindsay said.

Madison Community Hospital had about half a dozen admitted patients Thursday. Decisions on rescheduling outpatient procedures were being made on a case-by-case basis, CEO Tammy Miller said.

"We have emergency plans in place to handle things like this," she said. "We keep a three-day supply of potable water."

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No residents had come to the hospital with medical issues related to the water shortage, Miller said.

 

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