Heat, plant woes blamed for call to cut water use

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2000

Jessie Mathes, an L&S Sandblast and Paint employee, grinds away paint and debris, on a catwalk 25 feet above an empty million-gallon water softening tank at the city’s water treatment plant Tuesday. (The Vicksburg Post/Gregorie Ream)

Delays caused by a major breakdown at Vicksburg’s water treatment plant in January, combined with the sweltering heat, were behind a city call Tuesday to conserve water.

Mayor Robert Walker has asked city residents to stop watering lawns, filling swimming pools and washing cars.

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“Right now, the problem is demand,” said Public Works Director James “Bubba” Rainer. “It is not critical, but we don’t want it to get critical.”

The problem stems from the treatment plant’s two water softening units, 25-foot-tall tanks that each hold a million gallons of water.

The tanks were to be sandblasted and repainted to prevent corrosion last winter while demand for water was low.

But as one tank was being drained of water to be cleaned, the $485,000 turbine motor on the other tank gave out. The result was the city had to wait for replacement parts, repair the motor, then return to sandblasting and painting one unit at a time.

The work should be done within a week, and both softening units are expected to be back online, Rainer said. The city will announce when the voluntary watering ban is lifted.

But with the recent lack of rainfall about 10 fewer inches of rain have fallen this year than the normal average recorded and accompanying higher water usage, he said he recommended that residents cut back to avoid problems such as low pressure in the water lines.

The city has 12 water wells, but five are not in full production, Rainer said. Officials are discussing opening another five wells with next year’s budget.