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Irene: Lack of Water the Biggest Issue

Residents without power who are relying on well water are without water in their homes.

With power still out for about 40 percent of the township, one of the bigger concerns is for getting water to residents who are relying on well water that cannot be pumped without electricity.

“When it comes to health, water is right now the biggest issue,” said Chris Poulsen, director of health and human services for the township. “If you do have a well, you need a source of water, and that’s the priority at this point.”

Those in the township without a public source of water are dealing without it right now, so Bridgewater is working to make water available as quickly as possible.

On Monday, bottled water was brought to the , and there is still some available for those who need it. And, Poulsen said, additional water bottles will be coming through the American Red Cross.

All of the water will be distributed at the senior center for now.

But Poulsen also offered options for people who don’t have the water available for flushing toilets. Alternatives, he said, include taking water from swimming pools or filling buckets with water from sump pits.

“If you have a stream nearby, you can use that, or water in rain barrels can be put in a bucket,” he said. “Or if you have a neighbor with a public water supply, you can ask if you can run a garden hose over it temporarily.”

“You have to be inventive and try to come up with a way to get water,” he added.

Poulsen said he does not recommend that residents use bottled water for flushing the toilets.

“We’re waiting on additional shipments in the supermarket, so bottled water should be reserved for drinking,” he said.

And fire companies in the township, Poulsen said, are dealing with pumping out flooded basements where residents do not have power or working sump pumps.

As for this storm with regard to others, Poulsen said water was actually a bigger issue during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, particularly because the New Jersey American Water Company, with a base in Bridgewater, was under water.

“So we didn’t have a public water supply at that point, and the water was only 20 percent available,” he said. “With Hurricane Irene, the building wasn’t flooded so people with public water supplies have it.”

Still, Poulsen said, the water company did ask residents to conserve water just after the storm because it had lost power and was operating on generators.

“That’s been corrected [at this point],” he said. “They were asking for conserving so it didn’t overstrain what was available for them.”

But at this point, Poulsen said, there is no need to conserve beyond what is looked at for sustainability purposes.

Of course the problems with the water supply have taken a toll on the businesses in town, some of which had to close down because of power outages or water in the basements. Once the power is restored, Poulsen said, the health department will have to clear them for opening again.

“Flooding conditions mean more sanitation problems,” he said.

And restaurants without power, Poulsen said, could have an issue with food in their refrigerators.

“Once the power is restored, the health departments will have to go and coordinate with the restaurants and make sure they get cleaned up,” he said. “It is usually about a 24-hour period once they get the power back.”

At this point, Poulsen said, Bridgewater restaurants on Old York Road are closed because of flooding and lack of power.

“That’s the predominant area where we saw businesses get hit,” he said. “They don’t have power and they have been pumped out, but are waiting for power restoration. Anything on Old York Road is temporarily closed.”

And took on a lot of water and is currently working on cleaning up, Poulsen said.

No business on Route 22, Poulsen said, had to close down, and they did not suffer power outages.

But businesses and restaurants in Martinsville did have to close because of power outages.

“We’re waiting to hear some information back right now because the fire inspector is there,” Poulsen said. “We’re working in teams with other inspectors in the department to look for concerns in the buildings.”

“It takes at least 24 hours before they can open,” he added. “The sooner we can get them all ready to go, the better.”

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