The Hannibal Board of Public Works spent much of Monday hustling to make repairs at the Water Filter Plant in Riverview Park that would enable it to resume processing water.

The Hannibal Board of Public Works spent much of Monday hustling to make repairs at the Water Filter Plant in Riverview Park that would enable it to resume processing water. An accident at the plant Sunday afternoon disrupted the city’s ability to treat river water and make it safe for consumption.

Until the BPW’s ability to process water was restored, the city’s lone source of water was what was in storage tanks and towers. According to Bob Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, the city’s reserve supply is “being depleted faster than we’d hoped.”

In fact, those residing in higher elevations in the city were already without water by late Monday morning, Stevenson said.

“As the system drains down, more people will be affected,” he said. “Conservation is pretty important.”

Stevenson reports that high water use customers like General Mills have been asked to curtail their use of water for processing.

The Public Water Supply District No. 1 of Ralls County has stopped taking city water and is now relying on its storage tanks. It advised its customers Monday morning that a water conservation plan was in effect until further notice.

The declining water supply could impact the Fire Department’s ability to battle a blaze. Stevenson has advised the Fire Department it would have to pump water directly from the river.

The problem at the Filter Plant arose between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday when an electric valve malfunctioned.

“That’s when things began behaving oddly,” said Stevenson, adding that it is believed that a bolt of lightning may have caused the valve to malfunction.

The valve opened when it should have been closed, allowing the lower level of the Filter Plant, which is filled with an assortment of equipment necessary to process river water, to flood. Before the contents of a storage tank could be turned off, water was literally pouring out the doors of the Filter Plant.

“It took quite a while to locate the problem,” said Stevenson.

Because the malfunctioning valve would not close, an underground valve outside had to be accessed in order to shut off the flow of water.

The process of pumping out the facility began almost immediately. Two large motors that went under water were removed Sunday and taken to Quincy, Ill., where they were dried and made operational again.

One of the pumps was already back at the Filter Plant shortly before noon. It was installed and ready for use by 2 p.m. According to Stevenson, once one of the plant’s filter systems could be made operational the plant would begin producing water again. At approximately 3 p.m., the BPW posted on its Facebook page that it anticipated the process of replenishing the water towers would begin shortly.

“We’ll still not be at full capacity, but it should be adequate to meet the needs of the city,” he said.

Even though the plant is again producing water, it will still be operating in “manual mode.”

“We’ll remain in manual operation of the plant until all the controls have dried out and tested. Until they can be tested we’ll not know what’s fried and what’s still usable,” said Stevenson.

The reintroduction of water in areas of the city that have gone dry will be done slowly because air has entered the system. If done too rapidly it could result in water main-damaging “hammering.”

“That’s going to slow us down,” said Stevenson.

As a precaution, a boil order for the entire city was issued by the BPW, taking effect at 1 p.m. Monday. Any water being used for cooking or drinking should be boiled. Any ice cubes that have not been made with boiled water since the boil order was issued should be thrown out. The boil order will remain in effect until 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 25.