October 26, 2014

Elyria
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Avon Lake water supply back at capacity

The ice has cleared, and Avon Lake Municipal Utilities is back to full capacity after an emergency water shortage scare caused by ice blockage in intake pipes that collect the facility’s water supply.

Todd Danielson, chief utilities executive for Avon Lake Municipal Utilities, said there were no signs of ice blockage Friday afternoon. In addition, the water supply was at full capacity once again.

“We don’t see any issues,” he said. “We will certainly, in the next few weeks, be doing our debrief to determine how we would be able to work better preventively. We don’t want to have a situation like this again.”

The blockage, which took a day to fix, forced several cities to recommend conservation efforts by residents Wednesday evening, and the Lorain County commissioners to declare a state of emergency.

Some areas, which receive water under the Rural Water Authority, remained under a boil alert Thursday. After tests of water samples Friday, that alert was lifted.

The ice blockage was caused by frazil ice, a collection of loose, needle-shaped crystals in the water, resembling slush. It has less buoyancy than traditional ice and settles on the lake bottom, where the intake pipes are.

Danielson said frazil ice is rare. It forms with the combination of particular lake conditions, as well as the below-freezing weather Lorain County experienced Monday and Tuesday.

The Avon Lake Municipal Utilities facility experienced frazil ice one other time — five years ago — which had minimal impact on the plant.

Avon Lake Municipal Utilities wasn’t the only plant to experience problems with the ice this week.

Lake County Utilities Department in Painesville also experienced low water pressure caused by frazil ice clogging the intake pipes 30 feet beneath the water and 4,000 feet from the shore.

Randy Rothlisberger, Utilities Department director of water, said Lake County Utilities workers were able to flush out the ice fairly quickly, but the plant also had a back-up supply of water that would last a day and a half. Customers may have experienced low water pressure during that time, but no other issues, he said.

“We weren’t really in danger of running out of water,” he said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.