Utilities failures rattle parts of A2

BY
BY EMILY KRAACK
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 22, 2003

It was a bad weekend for utility services in Ann Arbor. Kicking off the troubles was a broken water main, which compromised water pressure in residence halls on the Hill and the Life Sciences Institute for most of Sunday.

To compound the difficulties, an unrelated power outage hit businesses and student housing yesterday.

Power lines downed by stormy weather led to the outage, which started around 11 a.m. yesterday. The downed lines affected two circuits, serving a total of 2,000 customers, DTE Energy spokeswoman Lorie Kessler said. DTE Energy owns Detroit Edison, the electrical utility company which supplies power to the Ann Arbor area.

The University's Towsley Center on Forest Avenue and University Hillel on Hill Street were hit. Off-campus housing from north of Forest Court to south of Granger Avenue and east of Ferdon Road to west of State Street experienced outages.

Kessler said power was restored to customers throughout the day yesterday and all customers were back online by 4 p.m.

Businesses along South University Avenue such as the Coffee Beanery, Beyond the Wall and TCF Bank closed down due to the outage. Ulrich's Bookstore posted a sign saying it was closed and that Michigan Book and Supply would be offering a 5-percent discount for the inconvenience.

Store employees said yesterday's power outage was bad for business. One manager said that yesterday was the last day of sorority rush, and shutting down her clothing store for five hours meant losing a critical business day.

One store employee said the business he works for is already struggling and closing for the day added to the store's financial difficulties.

Most students said the outage did not affect them very much because they were in class or not at home. Some students reported having trouble withdrawing money from ATMs along South University or being inconvenienced because their favorite stores were closed.

While some students struggled with blinking clocks and lack of television yesterday, others spent Saturday and Sunday watching water crews dig holes outside their dorm room windows.

The water-main rupture, the cause of which is still under investigation, occurred Saturday at 9 a.m. under the east side ramp supports of the new pedestrian bridge over Washtenaw Avenue, said Diane Brown, Facilities and Operations spokeswoman. Brown said she was unsure if water services were lost in buildings on the Hill for the duration of the rupture, but said water was shut off to Hill residence halls and to the Life Sciences Institute early Sunday morning so that a new valve could be installed. She added that students in the residence halls might have experienced either low water pressure or no water at all. Water was rerouted from the damaged pipe and restored to the buildings by 3:30 Sunday afternoon.

Traffic on Washtenaw Avenue was shut down temporarily due to flooding from the rupture, Brown said. She added that it is possible traffic will be disrupted again if investigation determines that the damaged pipe should be replaced.

She also said students did not need to worry about the cleanliness of the water coming out of their faucets now.

"Typically it's when water has to go through an area that's somewhat at risk," Brown added. "We've isolated the broken pipe area so there would not be any contaminants entering the water pipe system."