Pressure building, expected to near normal today|[9/15/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 15, 2006

Water pressure slowly built up in Vicksburg pipelines today as residents’ tensions eased.

Customers in the southern extremes of the 600 miles of municipal pipe continued to struggle late Thursday with such routine tasks as bathing, cooking and flushing toilets.

&#8220It’s an inconvenience,” said Joe Fleming, sitting near the door of his second-floor apartment on Belva Drive.

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Fleming and his wife, Susan, flushed their toilets and washed household items using water from a 20-gallon ice chest delivered to them by his father-in-law who lives outside city limits.

&#8220I’m not complaining too much, I guess,” he said, looking at the half an ice chest that remained by Thursday evening.

Failure in a 36-inch steel and concrete main near the city’s well field Wednesday caused the flow to trickle from zero to 10,000 meters. It also slowed supplies for outlying private water systems that depend completely or in part on water purchased from the City of Vicksburg.

Repairs were made by mid-day Thursday, but filling pipes and bleeding air has taken a while. Officials expected service to inch closer to normal by midmorning today, eventually reaching higher elevations.

&#8220We are slowly getting there,” Public Works Director Bubba Rainer said this morning. &#8220It should be at about 80 or 90 percent toward normal” by late today, he added.

A boil water notice remained in effect for all city residents until results of test samples taken from the water system are received from the Mississippi Department of Health, Water Treatment Plant Supervisor Pat McGuffie said.

&#8220We will start pulling samples by Tuesday. It should take until the end of next week. As soon as we get the results back, it will be lifted if it’s clear,” he said.

The Culkin and Yokena-Jeff Davis water systems, which draw from city lines, are also asking their customers to boil water until further notice.

Most businesses that were closed Thursday reopened, and all schools in the Vicksburg Warren School District held classes today after a one-day suspension. Water systems were flushed during the night to check for clear lines and regular pressure, Superintendent James Price said.

Vicksburg firefighters and crews from the city Street and Gas departments spent much of Thursday near hydrants bleeding air.

Testing will continue through the weekend on hydrants citywide to bring the entire system to normal pressure, Rainer said.

Ground movement over time put pressure on the pipe, causing the burst, officials have said. There’s no reason to think another failure will occur or that there are major system faults, Mayor Laurence Leyens said.

&#8220Sometime in the last 20 years or so, the ground just shifted right there,” Leyens said of the break site, just off Haining Road.

Rainer said the citywide shutdown of the water system was the first interruption that resulted from a break to the city’s main line.

&#8220Nothing has been this serious. This was a first,” he said.

Vicksburg extracts water from a field of 11 wells in the area of the line break. The water is transferred to the treatment plant to be purified. It then goes into a network of pipes that branches out into smaller-sized pipes and into elevated tanks for pressurized service.

That service came in a slow, rolling, north-to-south wave Thursday as water service was gradually restored to neighborhoods in the northern parts of the city closest to the water plant.

Brian Riley, downstairs in the Belva Drive apartments, was making the most of two gallons of water he purchased from a local store before supplies began running out.

&#8220I just wish I could wash my hair,” he said.

By about 9 p.m., Riley said, water pressure had finally gone from a trickle to something suitable for hand-washing at his mother’s house on Northridge Drive, on the edge of city limits just blocks from his apartment.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Department had several administrative offices flood once water service was returned, Sheriff Martin Pace said this morning. He blamed old pipes on the leaks that were discovered once water started flowing again in the building last night. They were being repaired this morning, he added.