A Nebraska National Guard helicopter maneuvers Saturday morning to place sandbags near a city of Lincoln well on an island of the flood-ravaged Platte River.

Lincoln's drinking water remains safe, city officials stressed Saturday afternoon, after a day of intense efforts to protect wellfields in the overflowing Platte River.

With assistance from the Nebraska National Guard, crews went to work at 7 a.m. Saturday to strategically position sandbags near three of the city's wells in the Platte near Ashland. 

With helicopters lifting 400 sandbags weighing 1,500 pounds apiece, Donna Garden, assistant director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, reported significant progress in fortifying the banks of the island where the wells are located, even as the Platte begins to recede.

"Hopefully we have seen the crest," Garden said at a Saturday afternoon news briefing.

An emergency order signed Friday by Mayor Chris Beutler remains in place as crews continue to work, and as unfounded rumors circulated Saturday afternoon that drinking water in Lincoln was compromised.

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A transformer supplying power to one of the city's 44 wells failed Friday morning and two other wells lost power as a result of the flooding, but Garden said Omaha Public Power District crews will work to restore power to those wells as soon as conditions improve.

Meanwhile, officials said the city's water system is producing more than enough water to meet the average daily winter demand of 35 million gallons.

All local reservoirs are currently full, with 100 million gallons of water supply available within the city limits, and another 10 million gallons of water in reserve in Ashland, according to Miki Esposito, director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities. 

"Concerned citizens have called in frequently asking about water supply and water quality, and both are maintained," she said. "Lincoln is really fortunate at this time to have a safe drinking water supply."

Lincoln's water is pulled from wells below the Platte and not the river itself, and officials said the city's water treatment plants are working as designed.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or eclopton@journalstar.com.


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