The frigid weather has led to numerous water main breaks, which in turn has lead to water boil orders for a majority of St. Clair County and parts of Monroe County, according to Illinois American Water and an e-mail from the St. Clair County Health Department.
Illinois American Water issued the boil order for most of its metro-east service area, which includes Belleville, East St. Louis, Centreville, Brooklyn, Fairmont City, Sauget, Shiloh, Washington Park, Alorton, Cahokia, Swansea, Canteen Township, St. Clair Township, Stookey Township and Smithton Township.
The boil order also affects utilities and communities who buy water wholesale from Illinois American and distribute the water locally, including Scott Air Force Base, O’Fallon, Fairview Heights, Caseyville, Millstadt, Waterloo, and the Metro-East Municipal Joint Action Water Agency, which serves Commonfields of Cahokia Public Water District and Columbia.
“Due to the impact of frigid temperatures on Illinois American Water’s Interurban (Metro East) District’s production and distribution systems, it is necessary for customers to boil water for drinking and cooking. Customers are also required to conserve water use,” the utility said in a news release. “In addition, Illinois American Water’s water quality team will be switching treatment to a form of chlorine known as ‘free chlorine,’ which does not contain ammonia.”
Customers should bring their water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. Water is OK for bathing, washing and other common uses.
Illinois American also wants customers to conserve water and to restrict all nonessential water use until further notice. Customers should refrain from noncritical uses such as running dishwashers and washing machines at this time, the utility said.
Karen Cotton, the external affairs manager for Illinois American Water, said boil orders usually last 36 to 48 hours, and customers will be notified when an order is lifted.
Cities not included in the boil order are Mascoutah, Lebanon, Freeburg and Smithton, because they get their water from the Kaskaskia River, according to the health department.
The City of O’Fallon, which buys its water from Illinois American and also distributes water to Fairview Heights, advised that bottled water should be used for drinking, cooking, washing fresh fruits/vegetables, hand washing and tooth brushing. Tap water can be used for those tasks only after it has been brought to a rolling boil for 5 minutes.
O’Fallon also advised water customers to take other precautions after the boil order is lifted, including flushing a building’s water lines, cleaning its faucet screens and purging standing water and ice from ice makers or coffee makers.