HARPERS FERRY – Tuesday morning’s news that power had been restored at the Harpers Ferry Water Works came as a welcome relief to residents, who had learned just a day earlier that their faucets would soon be dry.
Four large trees fell on the facility during last Friday’s powerful thunderstorms. Though no damage was done to the pumping equipment itself, one large tree took down the power lines that power the pumps.
Luckily the town’s two large water storage tanks located on Bolivar Heights were nearly full when the pumps went off line, giving Water Works employees and power crews a bit of breathing room as they scrambled to bring the pumps back on line.
But Water Superintendent Josh Carter estimated that the tanks would only hold around three days worth of water.
Power was restored for around eight hours on Sunday night, but after a fuse blew out power was shut down again. Although the pumps had been able to partially replenish the tanks during the eight-hour hiatus, Carter estimated that the Water Works, which also serves Bolivar and several other surrounding communities, would have to shut off the taps some time Tuesday afternoon. Officials from Potomac Energy estimated that power might not be restored until some time Wednesday evening.
Mayor Joe Anderson called Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management, who began working on plans to set up a water and ice distribution station for residents.
Electricians from the Park Service were sent down to the water plant Monday afternoon to try to develop a plan to run the pumps off of a generator. Since the plant relies on two separate sets of pumps – one to pump raw water from Elk’s Run to the treatment plant, and a second to pump the water from the plant up to the storage tanks – it was soon determined that two generators would probably be necessary to fix the problem.
Even if two generators could be obtained, it was not clear if electricians would be able to get the pumps running.
But hard work and a little luck came to the town’s rescue Tuesday morning, when word was released that electrical service had been restored and the pumps were once again filling the tanks.