The city of Medina was put on a boil alert Wednesday night because of low water pressure caused by frozen intake pipes in Lake Erie.
During the alert, announced at 9 p.m., residents are advised to boil the tap water to be used for drinking for at least one minute.
Officials said the city’s water supplier, Avon Lake Municipal Utilities, was not able to provide enough water to the city’s elevated water tanks.
As an alternative, city officials and Medina County Sanitary Engineer Amy Lyon-Galvin are working to tie the city into the county water system, which also can use water from the city of Cleveland.
In order to pump enough water from system to system, a fire truck was placed at a northern tie in location to increase water flow capacities. Two other tie-in locations were connected at the east side of the city and the south side of the city.
Mayor Dennis Hanwell asked residents and business owners to continue efforts to conserve water as much as possible.
Avon Lake Municipal Utilities supplies water to 206,706 residents living mainly in Medina and Lorain counties.
Lorain County commissioners have declared their county in a state of emergency for the first time in at least five years.
As of late Wednesday, various city officials were keeping a wary eye on the situation.
The stores that were open were seeing a rush as residents bought up bottled water and school district — many of which had yet to return from winter break due to the extreme cold earlier this week — were canceling or preparing to cancel in the event that the situation wasn’t rectified by this morning.
Both Medina Schools and the county Career Center are closed today.
Avon Lake informed Medina officials at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday that the water intakes in Lake Erie were frozen shut.
By 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, the water storage tanks were becoming depleted and the city issued an appeal to residents to conserve water.
Medina City Service Director Nino Piccoli said the city has been working with county officials to connect some county fire hydrants to city fire hydrants.
“That will not fill our takes, but it gives us enough volume in the system to maintain proper (pressure) in the distribution lines,” he said. “We don’t want to give false hope that we’re out of the woods. That’s just to sustain us until we hear from Avon.”
One connection was completed at 4 p.m. and was flowing at about 500 gallons per minute. That connection, in the 4000 block of East Smith Road near the Montville Township line, is behind the Medina Hospital.
“Obviously, the hospital’s our main concern, keeping them in water. We’ve been in touch all day with them,” Piccoli said.
He said at least one more line would be connected, in the 1000 block of Lake Road, where Medina Township meets the city, and possibly a third in the Rosemont neighborhood.
Todd Danielson, chief utilities executive for Avon Lake Municipal Utilities, said workers were trying to remove the slush-like deposits — called frazil ice — blocking its two intake pipes, which extend 1,800 and 2,200 feet into Lake Erie.
Danielson said this week’s record-low temperatures created more frazil ice — a collection of loose, needle-shaped ice crystals that has less buoyancy than ordinary ice and settles on the lake bottom.
Avon Lake normally draws and treats about 16 million gallons of water from Lake Erie each day.
But the blocked intake pipes allowed only about 3 million gallons to pass through as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to Tom Kelley, Lorain County Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security director.
Danielson said crews at the plant are using a dual system of adding a chemical to the water to melt the frazil ice and pushing and pulling water through the intake pipe in an effort to loosen the ice.
Avon Lake also planned to send divers down to the pipes.
He declined to predict when the pipes would be restored to full capacity, but voiced hope that warming temperatures will speed things along.
The National Weather Service in Cleveland predicted temperatures should reach a high in the upper-40s on Saturday.
In addition to the city of Medina, Avon Lake Municipal Utilities supplies water portions of Medina and Lorain counties served by the Lorain County Rural Water Authority and a number of municipalities in Lorain County, including Sheffield Lake, Sheffield, Avon and North Ridgeville.
Danielson said those areas could see a decreased supply, depending on how much water they receive from other sources and how much they have in their reserve tanks.
Lorain County’s state of emergency declaration would allow Ohio Army National Guard to truck in water if needed, Kelley said.
“This is a proactive approach to be able to get any assets above our capabilities in here in case we need them,” Kelley told Lorain County Commissioners Ted Kalo, Lori Kokoski and Tom Williams. “Our first priorities right now are, obviously, the safety of citizens, fire suppression and drinking water.”
Contributing to this story were reporters Dan Pompili, Brad Dicken, Chelsea Miller, Lisa Roberson and Evan Goodenow.