BISBEE — After three days with no water, the Arizona Department of Corrections Douglas Prison staff and inmates were pleased when word came the water was back on. Inmates were able to resume the use of sinks, toilets, showers and laundry.
The trouble started Friday night when the water stopped flowing to the prison. Cochise County provides water for the prison, so facilities’ staff went into action to remedy the situation.
Board of Supervisors member Ann English said, “It was a surprise to hear of the well not functioning on Friday. Immediately the county contacted a local well driller and the process of bringing the well back online began.”
Cochise County Administrator Ed Gilligan said the county appreciated the assistance it received from KE&G Construction, which carried out trenching and repair work when the system lost pressure due to a drop in the well’s water level. D&M Well Service also responded to the emergency quickly and began to drill another 150 feet down to collect water.
Not only was there a problem with lack of water, the pump itself failed, English continued. With a new pump in place, water was turned on, but the pressure in the line may have dislodged a sleeve on one of the concrete pipes and a large leak began. When a reservoir tank was not filling properly, a search was on to discover the leak.
Former County facilities employee Hal Harris donated his time and knowledge of the water system to help troubleshoot the issue and was vital in locating the leak, according to Gilligan.
“We really appreciate his dedication and initiative to help solve the problem,” Gilligan said.
Once the leak was found and materials to fix it gathered, it was repaired and the Douglas prison had water once again around 8:30 p.m. Monday.
Baillie said the leak may have had something to do with the drop of the water level in the well.
“Crews stood by to make sure there were no additional problem developing through the night,” English said. “Cochise County facilities did a terrific job in assessing the situation, getting the crews and resources available to solve the problem and bringing tanker trucks of water to the prison complex during the outage.
“They worked quickly and adjusted as each problem surfaced to find a solution. The main goal was to have the least impact on the prison population as we restored water. The prison administration was happy with the speed and efficiency the county handled the problem and their staff worked to explain to the inmates what was happening. Bottled water, porta potties and tankers of water were on the complex and meals were served on time and with the regular menu. A very satisfactory outcome.”
A new well, which is supposed to bring redundancy to the system and prevent such issues, is in the last stages of completion, English added.
Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe stated in a press release, “City public works staff assisted the county by providing water supplies, expertise and advice in troubleshooting the issue.”
Douglas Public Works helped fill the water tankers for the prison for uses other than drinking throughout the weekend. Bottled water was provided to the inmates and staff.
“We have a strong working partnership with the Department of Corrections at the prison,” said Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe. “This is one more example of regional cooperation that is commonplace whenever one of the jurisdictions has a need.”
The county appreciates the efforts of local and state agencies, including the Arizona Department of Corrections, in helping to resolve this situation, Gilligan said.
English, whose district includes Bisbee-Douglas International Airport and the prison, said, “I don’t think the situation could have been handled any better. Everyone came to the table to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and I would like to add my thanks and appreciation to everyone involved.”