Fountain Hill residents were given the all-clear exactly a week after their water service mysteriously dribbled out.

While the city’s water service was turned back on approximately 24 hours after the outage, residents had remained under a boil water notice from the Arkansas Department of Health. That was lifted June 14.

The outage was caused during a severe thunderstorm the afternoon of June 7. City Water Department Manager Harold Pruitt said the cause was ultimately traced to a lightning strike.

“Lightning hit a big oak tree, it went into the ground and it exploded the water main,” Pruitt said. “That caused the tank to start to drain, and within three hours we didn’t have any water.”

The city normally keeps its water tank 85 percent full, and when Pruitt passed it on his way home at 4:30 p.m. June 7, it was approximately at that level, he said.

“Then I got a call from (County Judge) Jim Hudson, who lives up north, and he said, ‘I don’t have any pressure,’” Pruitt said.

Fountain Hill shares a junction box with Hamburg’s rural water system, so residents were able to have service while water system employees and others — including state employees, representatives from the rural water association, the Martins of Martin plumbing in Hamburg and Hamburg water employees — searched for the cause of the leak.

Looking for the rupture at that time wasn’t easy because of the storm. Fountain Hill has approximately 69 miles of rural water line, and Pruitt said between 65 and 70 percent of it is in wooded areas. Complicating the hunt was the fact that most of the time leaks are identified by wet patches of ground or standing water.

“It was raining, thundering, lightning; everywhere you looked was water,” Pruitt said. 

The group searching for the rupture systematically tracked the line, checking which direction the water was flowing in. The rupture was ultimately located a day later at approximately 4 p.m.

“It was in a thicket across the street from the water tank in a place you would never even dream it would happen,” Pruitt said. “I have been working in this (business) for 30 years, and I have never seen anything like that.”

Once the service was restored, Fountain Hill customers had to remain on a boil water order per state health department requirements. Any time a line is ruptured, once it is repaired the water has to be tested to make sure contaminants did not enter the closed system.

The testing was completed and the boil water order was lifted Monday morning.

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