Tangier Island Still Without Running Water after Line Breaks

U.S. Army photo/Patrick Bloodgood

Some people on Tangier Island have little or no running water— and there’s not much hope of getting it back for another week. Residents are holding their breath that a broken water line can be fixed before the next big freeze, or before the fire department needs to use the island’s hydrants.

A bridge construction project required moving the water line that services the island’s west ridge. A brand new line went in, and seemed to be working properly…. until it didn’t. The line broke, and since January 21, the West Ridge has had no running water.

It turns out, a temporary repair isn’t possible, and Tangier is waiting on a replacement pipe and the crew to install it. There’s greater lag time on an island only accessible by boat.

A post on the town’s offiical Facebook page reads,

“Everyone on the island is having water issues the West Ridge side more so but, everyone needs to be patient and remember we live on an island so the contractors can not just run/drive somewhere to pick a part up or being their equipment right over they have to get it barged etc… “

Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge tells Bay Bulletin, he expects the crew and pipe to arrive by Thursday, so water wouldn’t be restored until sometime after that. Eskridge himself lives on the West Ridge. He says residents are doing whatever they can do to get by, including dumping creek water into toilets to flush them.

 A boat carrying water donations to Tangier Island. Photo: Tangier Island Drinking Water/Facebook
A boat carrying water donations to Tangier Island. Photo: Tangier Island Drinking Water/Facebook

Eskridge says one of his biggest concerns is the pipes freezing, with not enough hot water to run through them. With the next big freeze predicted for the middle of the week, it’s a very real concern.

The town’s other big worry is that there isn’t enough water pressure for the fire department to use its hydrants. If a fire broke out before the pipe were fixed, firefighters would have to rely on creek water for that too. And Eskridge points out, even that wouldn’t be an option if the tide were out, or if the creeks froze.

Despite the situation, Eskridge says, Tangier is getting a lot of support from the mainland. He lists Walmart, Pepsi, and Food Lion among the businesses providing water. And, he notes, the foreman of the bridge project that caused the line to be moved has donated ten pallets of drinking water. The Smith Island and Hebron fire departments are also helping, along with Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield.

“It’s a good feeling,” says Eskridge.

A Facebook fundraiser page launched by James “Nick” Dise called Tangier Island Drinking Water, had raised more than $3,800 in four days, with 116 people donating. In a post, Dise said he’s working with the Tangier Island Town Manager to get water to residents. He provided the following list of drop-off locations, for people who want to donate drinking water:

Bloxom Fire Dept
Accomac Elks Lodge
F&G Automotive, Onley
Exmore Town Office
Cape Chares Rescue
Mallards in Onancock
Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield

-Meg Walburn Viviano