Ely residents ordered to boil water as supply tank break-in investigated

After an emergency alert was sent to Ely residents regarding possible contaminants in the city’s water supply Monday, the investigation revealed that teenage shenanigans might be the cause of the “boil-only order.”

A water tank that supplies the northern half of the city was broken into over the weekend. Until the water could be tested for bacteria and contaminants, White Pine County officials ordered residents to boil the tap water for three minutes before using it.

Aside from a warning letter posted online, little information was available to residents on Tuesday about what caused the problem.

Christina Fitzner got a call from the White Pine County sheriff’s office informing her of the order. She said people were speculating about everything from an accident to terrorist activity.

“People were grabbing water from other people’s hands,” she said of chaos in the city’s only big grocery store. “No one could tell us why to boil the water so people were fighting for bottles.”

Fitzner avoided the store and has been boiling water for cooking, drinking and feeding her pet tortoise for the past two days. Her daughter and grandkids are coming to visit for Easter weekend, and she considered asking her daughter to bring bottled water with them.

She might not have to, if the sheriff’s office is on the right track with its investigation. Captain Scott Henriod said several young adults and one juvenile were being interviewed Tuesday. The investigation so far revealed that their goal was to graffiti the water tower, but after they climbed up they got curious and cut open the lock on the door.

Henriod said the sheriff’s office would report to city officials Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. After that, it will be the city’s decision whether or not to lift the boil-only order before all testing is completed.

City officials could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Contact reporter Annalise Porter at aporter@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0391.