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Verndale faced with boil order, District 818 sends students home

Minnesota Department of Public Health District Engineer Jon Groethe is flanked by Verndale Maintenance Worker Mike Fletcher, Mayor Ardith Carr and City Clerk Dawn Nelson Friday morning at the Verndale City Hall.

The Wadena County community of Verndale found itself facing a boil water order Friday morning, after their 55,000-gallon water tower went dry.

"Approximately around 7:30 a.m. this morning the citizens of Verndale noticed no water pressure or water, meaning that the water tower was dry," City Fire Chief and Emergency Director Don Weniger said. "Since the water tower went dry, we had to do the boil water issue with public health."

Mayor Ardith Carr signed a drinking water declaration at approximately 8:30 a.m., and the public was notified about the need to boil water before use.

The Verndale School was compelled by the declaration to close school for a 24-hour period, Verndale Superintendent Paul Brownlow said. Classes were dismissed at 11:30 a.m. Verndale has 3½ days of school remaining in the 2011-2012 school year.

Jon Groethe, a Department of Public Health district engineer of for north central Minnesota, arrived in Verndale just before the noon whistle blew. Groethe's job was to visit some of Verndale's critical facilities to get water samples. Groethe planned to visit at least five establishments in Verndale for samples.

"Because there is a low pressure, the Department of Health requires a boil water notification," Groethe said. "It is precautionary in nature. We have not found one bad sample, that's the reality of it. Daily water use in Verndale is approximately 40,000 gallons.

"It is our understanding that well No. 2 must have shut down for whatever reason, did not trigger well No. 1 to come on and the alarm notification system did not work," Verndale City Clerk Dawn Nelson said.

Verndale City Maintenance Worker Mike Fletcher is supposed to be notified if a switchover doesn't happen. West Central Telephone Lead Technician Travis Floyd said the reason the pumps failed was because of a connection failure.

"West Central was performing a software upgrade to our 'Fiber to the Home Network', and the virtual connection to the pumps failed," Floyd said.

Floyd did not know why the alarm failed to activate, but it was not a result of West Central's upgrade.

The residents of Verndale did not have water for about 20 minutes, Carr added.

The city website will be updated regarding the matter, when the boil order is lifted.