About a half dozen businesses in Walsenburg are still without water, because of several water main breaks on the north side of town in the Northlands area.
Restaurants, gas stations and motels right off I-25 have been without water for about a day and a half. Some have been forced to close their doors, while others turn customers away.
Now business owners are starting to lose money, and lose their patience. They say this is because it’s a problem that’s been ongoing for about two weeks.
Business owners say the water has been on and off for the last few weeks. And when it’s on, the pressure is too high, causing toilets to blow and flooding utility rooms.
The Best Western Rambler is one of the local businesses. According to one of its owners, Rajesh Patel, the hotel has been drastically affected by the water outage.
Patel says the hotel has lost thousands of dollars in business, forcing it to turn customers away.
“I’ve lost a tremendous amount of money. And we are not getting anywhere. We don’t know when the solution will come. If it's today, tomorrow, the next day--nobody knows,” said Patel.
For the guests they do have, mostly long-term guests, they transport water from a different hotel so the customers can at least use the restroom. They are also providing bottled water.
Patel thinks they lost thousands upon thousands of dollars. And because of the high water pressure when they did have water, they will have to fork out around $4,000 to fix their own plumbing that blew out because of the pressure.
On top of it, Patel had to run water from the building. In order to relieve some pressure and prevent flooding, they had to constantly run their taps for days just to prevent the entire hotel from flooding.
Customers have complained so much, Patel tells 11 News, it has even brought employees to tears. Some are upset they couldn’t sleep because of the high pressure and constantly dripping faucets. Most complain when the water was off, not able to shower or use the restroom.
"I don't know how they can not get this thing under control. The frustrating part is that they can't figure this out,” said Patel.
Patel says the most frustrating part for customers is now all the motels/hotels in Walsenburg are booked. So if they want a place that has water, they have to travel north about 50 miles to Pueblo, or south about 40 miles to Trinidad. And for those who do decided to stay, most are getting refunds.
Patel also owns the Taco Bell/KFC next door. He has been force to close those doors until the water is back on. Not only is he losing money, but it’s affecting his employees who don’t have a job to work at. He thinks he has lost thousands of dollars there as well.
At the ACORN Shell gas station on the same stretch of road, signs are posted warning customers you can’t use their restrooms because of a lack of water. Employees there say it really hurts business, because people don’t come in to shop and stay to eat anymore. They keep driving along.
The Walsenburg mayor tells 11 News crews are working around the clock to fix the problems. Mayor Larry Patrick says there have been several water issues over the last 10 days or so.
It started when a car hit a hydrant, then another car crashed into a pipe. Because of this they had lost some water and dealt with several leaks.
Patrick says they have very old infrastructure in the city, some dating back to WWII. Old age caused several more pipes to start cracking and seals to break, resulting in several water main breaks and various leaks throughout the city.
While trying to fix the problems, the city had to close off valves and reopen them, which caused changes in pressure throughout the system. This caused some businesses to experience very low or very high water pressure.
Thursday, they were trying to fix three water main breaks. The mayor says they had to order in special equipment to fix one of the mains, because it is buried 9 feet deep. They needed a special excavator to dig under and but in a safety box so crews could work down there on the pipe.
Patrick says the city is not happy about this, and says when the businesses suffer, the city suffers. The city is also losing money by losing sales tax revenues, losing out on utility costs, and paying their crews lots of overtime.
He says the city feels bad for the businesses, but that crews are working diligently to fix it.
“It’s just created a lot of problems for the businesses and city alike, and neither of us are happy about it. Just know the city of Walsenburg has been working hard and diligently, day and night,” said Patrick.
Crews are hoping they can fix the problem as early as Thursday night, but say there are no guarantees.