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Oakland County residents scramble for water after main break

Workers repair the water main break in Farmington Hills.
Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio
Crew fixing water main break at 14 Mile and Drake.

Near 14 Mile and Drake, a green pool of water covers half the road at the site of the 50-year-old water main that broke Monday night, leaving more than 300,000 people without drinking water.

Water is furiously gushing out of two temporary hoses on either side of the road, directing the water away from where crews will need to work.

Watch the video below to see workers repairing the water main break:


This break is not an easy fix, and residents are likely to be without drinking water for days. 

Cindy Yates went to her local Kroger to get bottled water, only to find they ran out early this morning. Yates is one of the not-so-lucky ones. Most people still have water coming out of the tap, which they can use after they boil it. She and about 50,000 others have no water pressure at their houses at all.

Click here to find out more about the Oakland County boil water advisory

"And not to have any water at all is very inconvenient," says Yates. "You can't flush the toilet, you can't wash your face, you can't  shower.  We don't even have water to boil."

She says the dog at home is already pretty thirsty, so she's driving off to the next store.

Oakland County water main break
Credit Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio
Byiu Lee, owner of this Novi China King. She is boiling all the water in huge woks before using it to prepare food or clean dishes.

"Probably into Wayne County," she muses, "across 8 Mile. They've probably got the same situation (of being sold out of water), but we'll have to keep looking around until we can find some."

Water isn't the only thing that will be hard to find.  For those with no water at home at all, finding a hot meal will mean a longer drive than usual. The boil water advisory means most restaurants in the affected communities have closed.  

Byiu Lee is the owner of a China King in a Novi shopping mall strip that's trying to keep its doors open.

Lee has just finished assuring an Oakland County health inspector that she knows how to keep the food safe. The restaurant is boiling all the water in humongous woks before using it.

"We have to, we must boil the water," Lee says. "After it cools down, then it will be safe."

Oakland County water main break
Credit Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio
Novi CERT volunteer distributing bottled water

Novi in particular seems well prepared for the emergency.  The city began distributing bottled water at fire stations the morning after the water main broke, using a corps of volunteers who've gone through the federal Community Emergency Response Team program, which trains volunteers in basic disaster response skills.  

"It's every day, you can come," a CERT volunteer tells a resident at Novi Firestation No. 2.  "It's four bottles per person, every day."

The comparison to Flint is unavoidable for a West Bloomfield resident, Jodi Friedman, who texted a message to Michigan Radio: 

"We are so lucky and privileged to have clean sanitary water most of the time," says Friedman, "And this is a reminder of that. Rather than be upset, I'm thankful to buy a few bottles of water until it passes. Flint wasn't that lucky."

A statement from the Great Lakes Water Authority says a replacement piece of pipe is expected to be installed by Wednesday night. Two rounds of water testing will have to be performed. That puts the earliest estimate for lifting the boil water advisory at late Friday evening.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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