Water service in Dunkirk began improving Thursday night as crews worked to repair what was described as “a large leak” at the city water plant.
“They notified us that we can begin using our hydrant system again,” said Dunkirk Fire Lt. Nick Barter.
Still in effect, however, was an order issued Thursday morning for all Dunkirk water customers to boil their water and limit their use of it.
The leak “could have allowed contaminants to enter the system and has depleted the City’s drinking water supply,” according to officials from the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, which issued the order.
Water should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute and then allowed to cool before using it for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth and making ice, officials said. Dunkirk city and town residents can also drink bottled water from state Department of Health-approved water sources.
"Temporary repairs have been made to the water leak, but water levels are critically low, so the City and County are asking for the cooperation of all Dunkirk water customers to conserve water as much as possible during this water emergency," said Director of Health and Human Services Christine Schuyler in a statement.
Water from taps can still be safely used for bathing and washing, health officials said.
The boil water order applies to both residential and commercial customers and is expected to be in effect through the weekend.
City officials Thursday ordered that all nonessential water use be discontinued immediately, including for manufacturing and other industrial purposes. They also asked residents to limit laundry and shower use and opt for paper and plastic ware for eating.
The leak was caused by crews working on a multimillion dollar expansion of the water treatment facility, said Chautauqua County Executive George M. Borrello.
"During construction, something caused a rupture," Borrello said.
The water plant is being expanded to provide water to larger number of customers in the newly formed North Chautauqua County Water District, he said.
Because low water pressure can affect fire hydrants, tanker trucks from nearby fire districts had been brought in to help in event of a fire, Borrello said.
Sean Moore, a Dunkirk resident, heard about the water problems early Thursday morning on the radio and went out to the Aldi grocery store to buy bottled water for his family, he said. There was plenty of water for sale when he went into the store about 9:30 a.m. and no one else appeared to have water in their carts.
"The first thing I was thinking about was how many people know about it," Moore said of the boil water order.
"For a lot of people it's going to be a pain," he said as he prepared to boil some water for later use.