More than 2,000 people have completely lost access to water, according to Navajo Tribal Utility Authority officials, because of freezing temperatures. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly declared a state of emergency for the Navajo Nation last week.
“We are issuing this alert as a precaution,” said utility Deputy General Manager Rex Kontz. “Some homes have been without water for an extended amount of time ... We also understand that people may also be hauling water from outside sources.”
NTUA and the Indian Health Service have been collecting water samples from the areas most affected by the water outage and are testing for any contamination.
The NTUA Environmental Compliance and Laboratory has been testing the water systems and, to date, the tests have not confirmed any bacterial contamination. This is in addition to the regular testing that NTUA conducts for all of the water systems.
When boiling the water, health authorities recommend bringing the water to a boil for at least one minute. Be sure to let the water cool before using. They advise that boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation.
NTUA will issue another public advisory when it is no longer necessary to boil water.
In the meantime, NTUA continues to work on repairing broken water lines throughout the Navajo Nation. With the assistance of the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority, more crews are being dispatched daily to restore water services as soon as possible.
“We are responding to all outage calls,” Kontz said. “It will take some time to get to each one. The crews have to travel between the location and the repair is unknown until they arrive on site. We are doing our very best to reduce the waiting time.”
In the meantime, as overnight temperatures remain just above freezing, NTUA is suggesting that water customers continue to drip water to keep water pipes from freezing. Other suggestions are: to insulate water pipes, to disconnect outdoor water hoses, and to skirt mobile homes. Also, do not try to thaw out frozen pipes with an open flame because it might cause more damage, officials said.
For additional tips on dealing with frozen water pipes, go to the NTUA website at www.ntua.com
If you want to share your story of losing water because of the suffering pipeline sytem on the Navajo Nation, please contact Navajo Nation reporter Jenny Kane at firstname.lastname@example.org. For continuing updates, follow her on Twitter at her address, @Jenny_Kane