Illogical mouse leaves town dry

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by Al Williams

A mouse is at the centre of a major failure that left Twizel with no water supply on a busy holiday weekend.
Twizel’s new multimillion-dollar water treatment plant shut down about 1am on Sunday, June 4, over Queen’s Birthday Weekend, leaving residents and visitors without running water until about noon the same day.
It has been revealed the “major failure of the Twizel water treatment plant where the whole system shut down was caused by a mouse that had got into the electrical cabinet and built a nest on the programmable logic controller that controls all aspects of the treatment plant”.
Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said it had been a frustrating experience and he did not want it to happen again.
“I got a call from a resident saying there was no water. I then had to contact our water management officer who was out of town.
“The mouse apparently blew the whole circuit. We even lost our emergency supply. It was very frustrating.
“I had a call from the Mackenzie Country Inn where 70 people were without water.
“It was Queen’s Birthday Weekend and cafes and other public service providers couldn’t serve people.”
Mr Smith said the main issue was the mouse.
“Obviously, they were not using bait. There is now bait being used.
“We were lucky that the electrician who was called in was able to do so at short notice.
Everybody involved on the day had worked frantically to get the plant up and running.
Mr Smith said there were lessons to be learned.
“A review will be held and there are sure to be measures put in place to ensure that it does not happen again.”
Council asset manager Bernie Haar said the cost of the failure was not yet known as all the invoices had not been sent in.
“Water was cut off to all of Twizel. Thankfully, this is the first time it has happened with the new plant.
“It is likely that a mouse shorted out the power supply to the programmable logic controller, thus shutting down the plant.”
Mr Haar said a review was under way this week.
“Some of the obvious improvements needed are .. a back-up alarm if the programmable logic controller fails, so that council staff and our contractors know immediately that the plant has shut down.
All contract staff would be advised how to restart the plant if it were to shut down again.
“There will be a review of the manual over-ride system to ensure the plant can be restarted independent of the programmable logic controller.”
The Twizel water supply upgrade is one of the key features in the Mackenzie District Council’s long-term plan and the total costis estimated at $3.5million over three years.