Nearly 9,000 people are still without drinkable water in Columbia after they believe someone may have tampered with a water tank in the borough.
There is some good news though, as the water company says the water ban could possibly be lifted sometime Friday night.
To clear any confusion, you can still use the water to shower and to wash your hands, but you are not supposed to drink it, brush your teeth with it, or make your food with it, even if you boil the water first.
The water stations are still busy, as crews were out as early as 5 a.m. to start giving water to the people of Columbia. Businesses are dealing with the water issue in many ways.
“I called it picnic day yesterday because we used paper plates and paper forks and paper cups so, so we’re on picnic time right now even though it’s cold,” chuckled Janis Awad, Owner of Mr. Joe’s Steakhouse and Restaurant.
Janis is the owner of Mr. Joe’s Steakhouse and Restaurant and even though things have been made difficult with the water ban, she’s keeping her doors open.
“We always try to stay open as much as we can and keep normal hours so that we can serve the public because that’s our ultimate goal,” Janis explained to us.
This isn’t simply a boil water advisory, which means water comes at a premium.
“You cannot use water for cooking and you can’t use it for washing dishes, you can’t use it for basically anything,” admitted the owner.
When Mr. Joe’s was notified of the water ban on Thursday, they got as many water bottles as possible to get their work done.
“I heat that up and put it in the sink to do the dishes,” demonstrated Janis.
The restaurant is using bottled soda and bagged ice to provide drinks for customers.
“It could be nothing, but it could be something, you so always just have to play on the safe side,” concluded Janis.
David Lewis, the General Manager of the Columbia Water Company said so far, they haven’t found anything dangerous in the water.
“Most of the test results have been completed and everything looks good,” Lewis informed us.
The water company has one test left to go, and if it passes the inspection, the water ban will be lifted.
As we said, that could be as early as 6 p.m., but until that time you are advised to still not consume the water.
Nearly 9,000 water customers in Lancaster County are not allowed to consume their water even if it’s boiled. However, officials now say it is safe to bathe and wash clothes.
Columbia Water Company issued the ban saying the water may have been contaminated after someone broke into one of the water storage tanks
The ban is affecting Columbia, Mountville and parts of Manor Township.
Because of this schools and offices in Columbia School District are closed today as is Columbia Child Care and Learning.
Officials say tests will be done to see if the water is safe - but that could take a few days.
In the meantime water buffaloes have been set up so people can bring their own containers and take as much water as needed.
With close to nine thousand people impacted by the water ban, there are water stations set up for people to fill up water jugs.
But the ban is still taking a toll on people and businesses.
However, people are coping with it!
We were at one of the two locations in Columbia where you can bring your own jugs and containers to fill with water that is safe to drink.
People have been coming all night to fill everything they can find so they can have fresh water to drink and use for other purposes.
Those who run The Boys and Girls Club on Locust Street started buying bottled water, but Willie Popp Jr. says he won’t need any.
“I’ll drink iced tea, soda, I’m a beer drinker,” chuckled Willie Popp Jr.
However, others are frightened by the ordeal.
“It’s scary, believe me, cause we have two parakeets, now I have to get them water,” Cookie Morehart told us.
Those who need water for themselves and their pets lined up near water trucks at the Weis in Columbia.
“Getting some water cause we have some water but can’t drink it, they said you can’t even cook with it at all,” commented Wayne Ackerman.
That’s a memo Vecchia Sicilia didn’t get. Even though an automated message was sent out to every business and home, the pizzeria didn’t hear the news until a customer told them there was a problem with the water.
They thought it was a boil water advisory, so they did that.
“Over in Italy they used to boil the water,” explained Sal Campailla.
We told them that they are not supposed to be using the water for consumption purposes even if it’s boiled, and it was news to them.
At the nearby Saint Anne’s Retirement Community, when they heard the news they put a plan in place.
“We received a phone call here to our reception desk, then to our supervisors and managers and we took action right away,” explained Saint Anne’s Retirement Community Marketing Director Christina Gallagher.
They went door-to-door and called every resident, as well as letting all staff know. Within the hour, all of the water fountains were taped off and residents had bottled water.
“Anything from your ice cube trays to your coffee pots. Even our dog, our resident dog that lives here, her name is Savannah,” Gallagher commented. “We traded out her water right away so she would have water.”
Still, while the water company cannot confirm it’s dangerous to drink the water, they say it’s best to avoid it at all costs.
“I’m not too worried. I believe someone just didn’t lock up properly, I don’t know,” Emily Redding said. “I’m just trying to think that it’s not too big of a deal, but I’m still here to get water.”
The water company says they’ll be at the shopping plaza where Weis Markets is, as well as Musser’s Plaza all night to give out water, all you have to do is bring your own containers.
The Mayor is also working on getting water trucks downtown and to outlying areas, so people who don’t drive will be able to get water.