Repairs completed on leaking pipes at Nebraska State Penitentiary

Photo: WOWT 6 News / KOLN

(Lincoln, NE) -- The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services says water service has been restored at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, days after it was turned off due to plumbing issues.

NDCS says the water was turned back on to the facility on Thursday after repairs to several pipes on the campus were made. Water was initially turned off at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 26. NDCS says facility maintenance workers and an external repair crews, "Worked through pouring rain on Wednesday to identify breaches in the pipes and get them fixed." Water was restored to all but one housing unit by Wednesday afternoon.

The facility was completely back on normal operations around 2:00 a.m. Thursday morning. “Facility maintenance staff are still working to resolve some carry over issues today,” said Nebraska Department of Corrections (NDCS) Director Scott R. Frakes.

“Notice was provided to all staff and inmates prior to turning off the water,” noted NSP Warden Michele Wilhelm. “We brought in portable stools for everyone to use. We had more than 9,000 bottles of water on hand and made sure that everyone in the facility had something to drink. Use of the showers was delayed until water service was re-established. We tried to maintain normal operations to the extent possible.”

Dir. Frakes said problems with pipes at the facility is not a new issue. “It is a situation that predates me, certainly. What made this unique was the cascade effect that resulted when water was turned on again. But, when sections of the pipe are corroded, leaks and joint failures are going to occur.”

NDCS says they currently have $60 million in maintenance projects across all its facilities. Around $12.5 million of that is for identified issues at the Penitentiary. “The agency has received appropriate funding to address maintenance needs, so the backlog is not about the money,” explained Dir. Frakes. “The challenge is making repairs within a fully occupied prison. We do not have the space or infrastructure to completely relocate inmates to another space, while repairs are underway.”

The Nebraska Legislature this year approved $14.9 million in state funding for the design and siting of a new prison that will serve as a replacement for the Nebraska State Penitentiary. “In order to provide the most secure housing for maximum and minimum-level inmates, a new facility is the smartest investment,” said Dir. Frakes. “Otherwise, we will never get out of the ongoing cycle of making repairs – repairs that are even more expensive due to the age of that facility and the issues involved with working around a higher security population.”

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