Grand Rapids boil water advisory to last for days, city says

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Residents are being asked to boil their water until at least Wednesday following a water main break, the city of Grand Rapids says.

Around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the city was notified of a loss of water pressure and discovered there had been a water main break in a remote area of Leonard Street NE and Union Avenue NE near Carrier Creek.


Thousands of Grand Rapids Water customers in the area east of US-131 and north of Hall Street were advised by the city to boil their water until further notice.

“What can happen when there’s a loss of pressure in the system, there’s a chance that harmful things from the ground can end back up in the water system, in the pipes and stuff like that come out. So, if you boil it, you’re essentially killing off any pathogens, things like that,” said Wayne Jernberg, water system manager for the city of Grand Rapids.

Everyone in the affected area should boil their water for two minutes before drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, cooking and cleaning, the city advised. Flushing the toilet and showering are not a problem, Jernberg said.

Grand Rapids released a map of the areas affected.

A map of a water advisory in Grand Rapids. (Courtesy City of Grand Rapids)
A map of a water advisory in Grand Rapids. (Courtesy City of Grand Rapids)

“If you’re in that zone, boil your water, take the precautions, OK? Boil your water, be safe, don’t take any chances. Those outside of that region, there are no issues, the water is completely safe,” Jernberg said.

While water pressure is expected to return to normal Sunday night, the city advises following precautions in case the pressure drop allowed any bacteria or pathogens to enter.

“If you are in the area East of US 131 and North of Hall Street, DO NOT drink the tap water without boiling it first,” the city wrote in a release.

Residents should bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute and allow it to cool before using. The boiling process kills bacteria and other harmful organisms that may be in the water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while under a boil water advisory you should still boil water even if it’s filtered through a home water filter or pitcher that filters water.

CDC boil water advisory instructions

A typical boil water advisory lasts three to four days but the city will notify residents when it has been lifted. In the meantime, crews work to flush the system and fix the main break. Then the water will be sampled according to state and federal requirements, the city said.

“We’re going to start collecting samples tomorrow,” Jernberg said. “(The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) basically said, ‘collect samples.’ We have to do two consecutive days, basically 48 hours clear, and then sometime on Wednesday we should be able to give the public more information. Our intent is to send out daily updates going forward.”

Everyone outside the affected area is safe to use water as normal, according to Grand Rapids.


Jernberg said it’s not exactly clear why the break occurred, but it caused a pressure drop that turned off pumps at a nearby pump station, “effectively kill(ing) service to the northeast side.”

“So, crews responded as quickly as they could to isolate that and we really responded as quickly as we could,” Jernberg said.

Fire hydrants will be flushed in the Second Ward and into Grand Rapids Township Sunday night into Monday morning.

The main will be formally repaired Monday morning into the afternoon, according to Jernberg. Then samples will be collected to test for any bacteria or pathogens. If the tests come back clear, residents will be able to drink their tap water by Wednesday at the earliest.

“We’ve already been talking with EGLE, our intent is to begin sampling tomorrow into Tuesday,” said Jernberg. “Hopefully by Wednesday, if everything goes as we hope and all of our samples come back clean, then they should have their water service back Wednesday where they won’t have to boil it.”

Jernberg said he has not seen this type of impact from a water main break before.

“They’re all relatively different. In my time — I’ve been around quite a few years with the system — I’ve seen some larger impacts, some are very minor. This one … the way that it impacted the pump station is very unique and I’ve never seen anything like this in my time,” he said.


Six schools within Forest Hills Public Schools are under the boil water advisory: Orchard View Elementary School, Knapp Forest Elementary School, Northern Trails 5/6 School, Northern Hills Middle School, Northern High School and Forest Hills Transition Center.

Classes will be in session and child care will still be held on Monday, the district said Sunday night.

Drinking fountains at the affected schools will be closed and water for students and staff will be brought in “as quickly as possible,” the district wrote in a release.

“However, we encourage families to send a filled water bottle with their child(ren) if possible. Toilets and sinks (handwashing only) are operational,” FHPS wrote.

As for mealtimes, any foods that require water will be prepared at an “off-site kitchen” and water will be brought in for cleaning and sanitizing, the district said. Orchard View and Knapp Forest’s Monday breakfast and lunch menus will stay the same. Any changes after that will be sent out to families by the end of the day Monday, according to FHPS.

“There will be a reduced menu on Northern’s campus while the boil water advisory is in effect,” the district wrote.


Several homeowners around northeast Grand Rapids, like near the Knapp’s Corner area, say they were without water for several hours.

The outage started early this afternoon. Some people reported having problems with their water sometime after 1:30 p.m. Kristin Kamps, who has lived in northeast Grand Rapids for the last decade, said she and her neighbors lost water before 2 p.m.

With no word on when her water would come back, she raced over to the Knapp’s Corner Meijer to buy a case of water and saw many others doing the same.

“All of the gallon water jugs were out already and the cases were going fast,” Kamps said. “So somebody stopped me and said D&W was already out.”

Kamps said her water was fully restored before 6 p.m.

Several businesses in northeast Grand Rapids closed because of the water outage, including Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park as well as Celebration Cinema North.

One of the cinema’s managers said its water went out around 2 p.m., as did several other businesses in the complex. One moviegoer noticed it as her film wrapped up.

We got out of the theater and it’s like, OK, potty break, and all of the bathrooms are blocked off. As we walked out, there was big old signs on the doors saying ‘closed’ cause there’s no water,” said Marla Mountain.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park posted on its Facebook page that it was closing as of 2:30 p.m. on Sunday “due to an area-wide water outage. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Celebration Cinema North posted on its Facebook page that it “will be closed until water is restored. This post will be updated as soon as there is a timeline.”

Anyone with questions or who needs to report a water/sewer emergency should contact Grand Rapids Water customer service at 616.456.3000 or call 311 within city limits.

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