TIFFIN– A boil order in Tiffin caused a little bit of heat between the city and the school district this spring.
On May 28, the City of Tiffin issued an order for residents to boil drinking water due to work necessary to replace a mixing unit in the city’s water tower. The boil order was in effect until May 30.
A drop in pressure during such maintenance could allow contaminants to enter the public water supply, said Johnson County Public Health Department Deputy Director Tricia Kitmann. Similarly, a boil order would be initiated if bacteria were identified during routine testing. A boil order recommends that residents boil water intended for consumption or drink bottled water until the municipal water supply has been tested and deemed safe. Bringing the water to a boiling temperature kills any bacteria that might be present.
While health department officials attempt to put boil order information on the county’s Facebook page, Kitzmann said, boil orders are typically initiated by the affected municipality, which is required to inform its public.
In Tiffin’s case, City Administrator Michon Jackson notified the public as soon as she became aware of the situation, she said, and the information was posted to the city’s website immediately.
It wasn’t soon enough for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School District, though. The city received a memo from the district’s administrative office on June 17, along with an invoice of supplies that were purchased and the cost of others that had to be disposed of, and the cost of extra staff hours expended due to “nonsufficient notice of a boil order for Tiffin,” the invoice indicates.
The school requested to be reimbursed a total of $813.46 for food supplies, disposable tableware, cases of water and staff time required to follow the boil order.
The city said no.
At its July 2 council meeting, the four councilors present only briefly discussed the invoice.
“They (the school) sent me an email; I don’t know why,” Jackson told the council. “I replied to their email and said we probably won’t be paying this. When something happens and there is a boil order, we don’t plan it three weeks ahead of time or anything.”
However, Jackson told the district she would include the invoice in the council packet and request an official decision on whether to pay it or not.
Council member Jim Bartels said the list of supplies, which included paper plates and plastic forks, seemed strange.
“They had to buy that stuff because they didn’t want to wash dishes with contaminated water,” said council member Peggy Upton. “Plus, as you pointed out, it was due to emergency circumstances.
The council immediately and unanimously voted to deny paying the invoice 4-0, with council member Mark Peterson absent.
It was the second time this year Tiffin has initiated a boil order due to water tower maintenance, following one in February.
More recently, city officials advised residents to boil their drinking water around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 1, when a water main blew apart. Contractors were tapping the main in a new residential subdivision, said Jackson.
“The boil order was caused by a developer hitting the line. Our water pressure dropped below 20 PSI. It was a precautionary boil order, per state law,” Jackson said in an email Monday. That boil order was lifted at noon on Friday, July 4.