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Boil order tests local businesses

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
Piles of snow are just about all that's left Monday after several days of storms and frigid temperatures.

The hits keep coming — and, no, they're not popular music compilations from the eighties.

In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Shawnee residents have most recently been wrestling with interruptions to utilities, like electricity and water through several days of winter storms.

Now that temperatures are finally on the rise and what's left of several inches of snow is making its way down city drains, this weekend's boil order is merely the latest challenge as water main breaks continue to disrupt service.

Over the weekend, the City of Shawnee issued a mandatory boil order. Just before noon Saturday, leaders put the word out, urging residents to take precautions as the water supply has been facing many challenges, due to many days of water main breaks, more than double the normal water usage and frigid winter weather.

Throughout the cold temperatures, the plant has used more than a month's supply of certain chemicals used in the treatment process, the Facebook post reads from the City of Shawnee page.

Because of the high demand, suppliers are experiencing challenges replenishing necessary chemicals.

Though the city was critically low on the required chemicals for treatment, a post Sunday indicated the problem is on its way to being resolved.

“The water treatment plant staff and chemical suppliers found and were able to purchase the needed chemicals to properly operate our water plant,” the post reads. Chemicals were reintroduced to the water treatment process with excellent results, the post reads.

“Currently, all water being treated by our water plant is meeting and exceeding all water treatment standards for high quality treated water,” the post states.

However, for safety, the city has chosen to continue with a precautionary boil advisory until further notice.

“Boil your water at a hard, rolling boil for at least one minute before consumption, drinking, use in food preparation (including baby formula), brushing teeth, making ice, wound care, and bathing infants who may ingest the water, or use another drinking water source such as bottled water until the tap water is safe to drink again,”

The boil order has caused some local businesses, especially restaurants, to make adjustments. While some have chosen to shut their doors and wait it out, others got resourceful.

Cami Engles, owner of Theopolis Social Club, at 419 E. Main, said her restaurant bought bags of ice instead of using the ice machine, which they drained and cleaned with boiled water and bleach.

“We boiled all of our water for cooking and cleaning,” she said, as well as bringing in bottled water, and boiled water for customers,” she said. “We also did some things to help conserve, such as not automatically giving everyone a glass of water at the table when they sat down.”

Engles also placed sanitation wipes at each table as an extra level of comfort for people.

“I even ran a goofy special, which people took advantage of, that if they brought in their own drinking water, they could have a half-price beer or wine,” she said. “We’ve just been pivoting and trying to survive.”

At Paul's Place Steak House, at 120 W. MacArthur, managing partner Neil Lindenbaum said the restaurant has not been selling soda.

He said they purchased bottled water for using in recipes, and bottles of water for customers.

“We are boiling water to make iced tea,” he said. “We have been boiling water for cleaning bar glass and cleaning tables, and boiling water and then using bagged ice — bought from another town — to cool it down to clean lettuce for salad.”

He said they are doing what they have to, to keep their employees and customers safe.

Manager Jo Blair, at Van's Pig Stand at 3815 N. Harrison, said the site is boiling water for their fries, shut down the pop machine and purchased canned sodas for customers.

Sonic Drive-In at 45th and Harrison remained closed Monday morning.

Though water is a must for many businesses, some are able to continue operation as normal.

Kut N Up salon owner Angi Sutton, at 136 W. MacArthur, said her business hasn't had to do anything different since they only wash hair and towels.

“No one drinks or eats anything that would require the water to be boiled,” she said.

The same was true for The Suds Bucket, a laundromat at 1624 N. Harrison.

“Shawnee we are open and ready to serve you a warm cozy spot, free cable and wifi, and the best laundry service in Shawnee,” a Facebook post reads.

Watch for updates.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.