Michigan city hunts for huge water main break

BAY CITY, Mich. -- Bay City officials planned to continue their search Monday for the source of a water main break that's been draining 10 million gallons of water a day and has prompted water-use restrictions for the city of 35,000 and the surrounding county.

Bob Dion, the city's water distribution supervisor, said Sunday night that crews were unable to find the source and would regroup Monday, The Bay City Times reported.

"It's frustrating," Dion said. "Trust me, it's frustrating."

The city has declared a water-use emergency affecting most of Bay County, urging residents and businesses to avoid all unnecessary water use. It said Sunday that it shouldn't run out of water, however, if people are conservative about water use.

"So if residents really conserve water for only basic needs, we can get through this," said Bay City Manager Rick Finn.

Crews discovered Saturday there was a major water main break, officials said. Public works Director Dave Harran has said the city's water reserves could be empty Monday unless the location of the leak is found and crews can halt it.

On Sunday, the city said it was taking in water from the Saginaw Bay at a greater rate than the leak was discharging water.

The search for the break has been extensive. Firefighters from neighboring townships drove Bay County roads in the hopes of finding flowing water. A state police helicopter surveyed farm fields and farmers were asked to check their fields for any unusual water. Crews also have been inspecting water mains that run under the Saginaw River to see if any of them is the source of the leak.

"There's nothing except flowing water that can point us to the source of a break," Dion said. "That's what makes it difficult."

Under the water-use emergency, residents are asked to avoid unnecessary water use, including laundry, watering lawns and washing cars. Residents are also being asked to cut down on using water for personal hygiene.

Operations continued Sunday at some businesses that use water, including the downtown Totally Clean Coin Laundry.

"I guess it didn't faze me at all," said Savana West, who was in the middle of doing her laundry. "If we are going to run out of water ... I'm going to need clean clothes for the rest of the week."

All Bay County residents are affected by the water emergency except residents in the city of Auburn, the village of Linwood and Frankenlust Township. Bay County residents who live in the Midland city limits aren't affected.

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