Faulty pump leads to possible water contamination in Hillsboro

Many Hillsboro residents experienced issues with their water this morning around 7:20 a.m. when water failed to come out of faucets.

“I just thought it was more of the pipework being done on Grand. But I thought it was weird because the city hadn’t warned us like they usually do,” said a west side resident.

The issue was not a scheduled maintenance fix. A high service pump that feeds water into the main water tank failed. The water tank then emptied out.

The city explained more in their press release, “We experienced a telemetry problem at the small water tower this morning (March 7th). This resulted in a drop in water pressure below 20 psi (pounds per square inch) and several areas of town were without water service.”

Larry Paine said employees were already working on the water issue when he realized there was a problem and they had the water back on within 30 minutes.

“We are thinking it affected most of the town, but we are not completely sure. Our workers moved quickly to get it back on.”

However, possible contamination occurred once air came into the line due to the empty water tank. Failure to maintain adequate pressure may have resulted in a loss of chlorine residuals and bacterial contamination. This caused many residents to have visibly dirty water come out of their faucets.

Paine and his staff immediately notified places that would have human consumption so they could plan accordingly. This included the USD 410 school district who scheduled an early dismissal for all students at 10 a.m. All practices and other school-related activities have been canceled for the day.

USD 410 Superindent Max Heinrichs said, “We decided for our situation of not having enough bottles of water around we needed to cancel school.”

He is already planning for tomorrow.

“I have ordered a pallet of water which would put about 1,000 bottles of water in each building leaving about 3-4 for each student. That isn’t really enough water if you think about it so we need to see where we are with it all. I’m not ready to make that call about school tomorrow yet,” said Heinrichs. “My goal is to let everybody know either way as soon as we can. I don’t want to make people sick. It will all come down to the safety of the water.”

Paine also notified the Kansas Department of Health and Environment who issued a boil water advisory for the city of Hillsboro in their own press release (see here for the full press release). KDHE gave instructions for the boil water advisory:

Customers should observe the following precautions until further notice:

  • If your tap water appears dirty, flush the water lines by letting the water run until it clears.
  • Boil water for one minute prior to drinking or food preparation or use bottled water.
  • Dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker.
  • Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.
  • Water used for bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing so that water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult their physicians.

According to KDHE, the advisory will remain in effect until the conditions that placed the system at risk of bacterial contamination are resolved. The order will probably continue until bacteriological samples show there is no contamination.

Paine said,” We will continue to run bacteria tests and are flushing the water system today.”

In the meantime, you can also purchase water or refill any jugs at Dale’s Supermarket. They have a new shipment of water coming in tomorrow morning if their supplies run low.

“Our water service has a UV (ultraviolet) light that kills any bacteria in the water,” said Dale’s son, Darren Frantz.

When asked how residents without social media are to know about the advisory, Paine asked for people to spread the word themselves. He also stated that they are getting fliers ready to hand out all over town.

We will continue to update you here, but you can also find updates on the KDHE website and the City of Hillsboro website.


Local Hillsboro kids play in the snow during their unexpected day off.