It takes a lot of water to be in the restaurant business.
But what if that water is unfit for consumption?
Or worse, isn’t there at all?
That was the question that members of the Glens Falls office of the New York State Department of Health hoped to answer as they met with local business owners and operators on Tuesday.
“We are not here to discuss or solve the problems that face the water system,” said Dale Bills with the DOH. “Our purpose is to help prepare you as operators if another emergency does occur how to be ready to respond to that so you can remain open if possible.”
Bills said that when she went around to the businesses that rely on water in order to remain open during the water outage in February, that there were concerns over what needed to be done in order to remain open.
“Many of you knew some of the procedures that needed to be followed,” said Bills. “But what I saw was that you were not 100-percent sure about the procedure or what you should be doing.”
Pat Roche, owner of the Roma, said that he felt there were two key issues facing business owners in the village.
“The first is a boil water order, and that is something that we have encountered quite a bit here in Whitehall,” said Roche. “We are familiar with the procedure. The other is that while the village has been really good in trying to help me know when something is going on, there have been times where a notice has been left on the back door and I have not seen it, or times when they think that they can keep the water flowing and then I have to make a decision in the middle of operating whether or not to stay open.”
Bills said that realizing the potential set backs was a first step in developing an emergency plan.
“The best plan is to be aware and prepared for those situations,” she said. “if you are prepared for a boil water situation, then you will be prepared for anything that could happen, including an outage.”
McDonalds manager Lloyd Schneider said that the water outage situation was something that he felt no one was prepared for.
“The no water thing was something that none of us were used to,” said Schneider.
“If you don’t have a plan in place the day of the event, then it is tough to know what you are going to do,” said DOH official Gregg Reynolds.
Joe Kelly, owner of Joe’s Pizza, said that he wanted to understand why he was shut down during the water outage even though he felt he had a plan in place and was following guidelines.
“I didn’t think that I was in violation of anything when you came in to shut me down,” said Kelly to Bills. “I had bottled hand sanitizer for the employees and we were filling buckets to run water to the toilets, but you said I had to close because I did not have a sanitary condition for the employees.”
Bills explained that in order for the employees to remain sanitary, there must be hot water available specifically for them to wash their hands.
“You had a plan and you had some good ideas,” said Bills. “But there were things that still needed to be in place.”
Roche asked if not having a toilet for customers also meant not being able to provide a sanitary space for employees.
“That’s not the case, from what I now understand,” said Kelly. “We can drag water into the toilet for employees, but the biggest problem was that we need warm water for the employees to wash their hands.”
“You do need water that is at least 100-degrees for hand washing and hotter for dishes,” said Reynolds.
Bills said that the purpose of the meeting and workshop with the business owners was to make sure that they had every opportunity to remain in business during a water emergency.
“We want you to be able to operate during a water situation,” she said. “The last thing that I want to do is go around on a Friday night and tell people that you have to close. It breaks my heart. We are here today so you can talk with Gregg and Anita (Gabalski) and get a plan in place that you can stick to and then you will be prepared and set if that happens.”