Broken water mains plague towns

MANSON – Cyndi Poppinga, a server and bartender at Big Beve’s Bar and Grill, has been answering a lot of questions from customers who have called the restaurant in the last few days.

“They want to know if we have coffee available and if we’re open,” she said. “They also ask ‘how are you serving?'”

The questions are in response to a boil advisory issued by the city Thursday after several water mains broke and pressure in the lines dropped to low levels. Any business that prepares food has had to make some temporary changes.

Big Beve’s co-owner Barb Jones said the water outage that preceded the boil advisory caused its own set of problems.

“The biggest drawback was that nobody could use the toilets,” she said.

Once the water came back on – with the boil advisory in effect any kitchen equipment directly plumbed into the water pipes became unusable.

These includes ice makers, coffee brewers, dishwashers and mixers for fountain drinks.

“We began using bottled water to make coffee,” she said. “We had to go to canned soda and bagged ice.”

In addition, they switched to paper plates and disposable utensils.

“It does affect you,” she said. “You have to do more.”

At Cubby’s Convenience Store along Iowa Highway 7, a cup of freshly brewed coffee or a fountain pop is off the menu for awhile. Signs on the brewing machines alert customers they’re out of service.

Store worker Michelle Winston said that anything that uses water is pretty much offline, but that the water outage has helped with sales in other areas.

“We’re selling more milk and juice,” she said. “People are substituting it for their morning coffee.”

Robin Hasswirth, the store’s kitchen manager, said the biggest complaint so far has been the lack of coffee.

“We can’t boil water and pour it in,” she said.

She is able to keep the kitchen open, she said. They boil the water they use to wash their utensils and pans.

“We do them all by hand,” she said.

In addition, for any recipe or mixes that call for water, it’s taken care of with the bottled variety, she said.

David Wooldridge, owner of the Affiliated Food Stores of Manson, said he’s seen a small increase in the sales of bottle water but little sign of panic.

“It’s business as usual,” he said. “People are taking it in stride.”

He said he did see a slowdown in business while the water was off, but that it was relatively minor.

Wooldridge expects that as the boil advisory continues, the water business will do better.

“Over the next three to four days, it might sell a little more,” he said.

One of the unintended benefits of the water outage was unexpected time off for students at Manson Northwest Webster Schools when they were sent home at noon on Thursday.

Drew Poppinga, 14, an eighth-grader, spent the time socializing.

“I hung out with friends,” he said.

He said the next day, students found the water fountains off limits. But the school instead provided bottled water coolers and used plastic plates to serve food in the cafeteria.

He’s finding much the same at home. There are several large jugs of water to drink and to prepare food from. The paper plates and plastic forks are out in full force.

Of course, like almost anything, the boil advisory cloud has a silver lining.

For Jones, it’s helped instill a sense of gratitude.

“Its made us not take our water and toilets for granted,” she said.

The boil advisory for Manson will remain in effect until bacterial testing can be completed according to the notice. That may take several days.

Until it is lifted, only bottled water or water boiled for at least a minute should be used for drinking, cooking, dish washing, tooth brushing, ice making or any other use where it might be consumed.