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A little more than 24 hours after issuing a boil/bottle water advisory, it was lifted by the city of Ripon after the Water Utility and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) completed testing to determine the city’s water was safe for consumption.

The advisory was lifted at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The city says no additional flushing, boiling or filtering is required when using city water at this time.

“If you experience water quality issues, such as cloudy or dark water, please flush until clear or contact the utility,” the city’s notice lifting the advisory said.

The advisory was issued Wednesday morning “out of an abundance of caution” as the city’s water system faced a loss in system pressure.

Wednesday morning, the Water Utility received numerous reports of no water service, so it sent crews and technicians to work on the issue.

“City crews responded and realized that there was a small malfunction and began pumping water,” City Administrator Adam Sonntag said. “[They were] overriding the system to make sure that we had the pumps running again and isolating certain parts of the system to make sure that pressure was established.”

By around noon Wednesday, pressure had been restored to most of the city, but testing still had to be completed to ensure water was safe to drink, Sonntag noted.

“Pressure has been reestablished,” he said. “We have done sampling throughout the system for chlorination and disinfection.”

According to Facebook posts from the Ripon Police Department, the water outages appeared to impact the south end of the city at first, but were later determined to be more widespread.

“Mostly, it appears to be the southern side of the city, but it’s kind of widespread,” Sonntag said. “It varied. Some people had water, some people didn't have a lot of pressure. It was kind of all over the place.”

As a result, the Ripon Area School District closed all of its buildings Wednesday due to “school buildings not having running water,” the district said in a Facebook post 

The following day, classes resumed as usual inside the Ripon Area School District. Due to the boil/bottle water advisory, the district arranged for meals to be prepared without using water and provided bottled water to students and staff upon request.

“Thank you for your patience as we collaborate with the city in their efforts to ensure we have safe drinking water,” the district said on social media.

While the city and school district had been impacted, so too was Ripon College as it said Wednesday that all buildings on campus were affected.

“We are currently working with the City to evaluate the issue and get this issue resolved as soon as possible,” the college said in a Facebook post.

According to the boil/bottle water advisory, the loss of water pressure was due to a malfunction in the water system’s monitoring devices.

Sonntag said a contractor came to the water utility Tuesday to perform maintenance on its monitoring system, which failed overnight and caused the water towers to drain because the wells didn’t turn on to pump.

Staff were not alerted due to the recent change in dialing phone numbers, which requires the area code to be dialed.

“Normally, in a situation like this, if the system had not failed, we would have been able to respond overnight and avoided all this, but the systems — for various reasons — didn't work last night,” Sonntag said. “We're getting that corrected. We have technicians working on it already, so it doesn't happen again, and to make sure everything is programmed correctly.”

He added that the situation highlights “the need to invest in some of this stuff to make it more reliable.”

When water pressure drops below a certain point in the distribution system, there is a risk of contamination, according to the boil/bottle water advisory.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is requiring a ‘boil/bottled water’ notice to be issued,” the advisory said.

The city worked with the DNR to determine the safety of water for consumption through sampling and testing.

“We sample under the direction of the DNR and will increase disinfection at our wells,” the water advisory said. 

Written By

Joe Schulz served as the reporter of the Green Laker in 2019 and 2020, before being hired as a reporter for the Commonwealth in October 2020. He is from Oshkosh and graduated from UW-Oshkosh in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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