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Portales deals with water woes – yet again

PORTALES – No water means restaurants, car washes and even churches have to close, as Portales residents were reminded, again, on Sunday.

“We canceled our service because we’d have had no restrooms. We’d usually have coffee, too, and couldn’t, and had to unplug our ice machine,” said Delynn Epperson of First United Methodist Church in Portales. “People were disappointed, but if you look at the back story, instead of just ‘they couldn’t come to church,’ they couldn’t shower or do anything that involves water. If you went around town that morning everything was closed.’ ”

A Saturday night line break left the city with no water or low water pressure for more than 24 hours. Faucets began flowing again late Sunday, though citizens were advised to boil it before consuming for at least 48 more hours.

City Manager Sammy Standefer said the break occurred between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of Commercial Street and North Avenue E.

Standefer blamed the outage on “the usual problems” – pipeline he said was poorly installed 30 years ago and has continually caused outages in recent years. This weekend marked the second time in five years the city has been without water more than 24 hours; the sixth time in five years it’s experienced a widespread outage.

“The system is wearing down,” he said. “Whoever initially installed it, placed it on bare rock, which is causing breakages.”

Over the past several years, city officials have been installing isolation valves in an effort to prevent widespread outages, but most of the town was without water this time.

Standefer said about five miles of pipeline need to be replaced, but the city needs help with funding from the state and other government entities.

Multiple businesses and public entities, including Portales schools and courts, closed Sunday and/or Monday because of the water issues.

Most local churches had to cancel service and all their other Sunday activities.

“We could have held service, anyway, but with that many people and no restrooms, there could have been problems,” Epperson said.

First Baptist also canceled its evening Life Recovery program meeting, where the church helps people suffering from addiction.

Many local restaurants flushed their systems and opened again Monday.

Some coffee shops like The Courthouse Cafe were still able to run Sunday because most of the water used in their drinks was already pre-boiled.

Emily Breidenbach from The Courthouse Cafe said they had several customers come in looking for a place to get a fountain soda, but like most other restaurants in town, their machine was out of commission with no water.

Lisa Ferguson at Sonic said their corporate policy is to shut the restaurant down until the water is cleared and used Monday’s closure to get some minor construction work done.

Officials provided drinking water to residents who could bring their own containers on Sunday. Potable water was also delivered to Roosevelt General Hospital and the county jail on Sunday, Standefer said.

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