Water plant’s integrity impaired after shots fired at transformer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Vicksburg Water Treatment Plant lost the ability to draw from five of its 18 wells after someone apparently shot a transformer on Long Lake Road last week, prompting the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen to approve $5,800 in emergency spending for the repairs on Wednesday.

“What it amounts to is we lost the north end of our well field,” said plant superintendent Pat McGuffie.

McGuffie said the damage occurred March 17, was repaired the same day and operations resumed as normal, said McGuffie, adding the city’s water supply was not compromised.

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“All I know is when we went out there to take a look at what happened, the transformer had been peppered really good,” he said. “We’ve had problems over there a good bit — not as far as shooting — but with guys mud-riding out there.”

The Warren County Sheriff’s Department was notified and is investigating the incident. Sheriff Martin Pace would not confirm the damage resulted from gunfire, but said there is no evidence the damage was caused by someone who wanted to deliberately hamper water plant operations.

Electric pumps move the water from the well field to the processing area.

“This is an unfortunate situation that could have adversely affected a large number of people, but we have not uncovered anything to suggest it was anything more than a random act of vandalism,” he said.

Long Lake Road is located in a rural, uninhabited area north of the city, making it difficult to apprehend vandals unless the crime is witnessed, Pace added.

If found, the person or people responsible for damaging the transformer will be charged with a felony malicious mischief, said Pace, which could “result in a trip to the penitentiary.”

The Water Treatment Plant is on the harbor at 601 Haining Road. The water drawn from its 18 wells throughout the city and county is transferred to the treatment plant for purification. It then goes into the pipe network, which includes a series of elevated tanks to provide pressurized service.

The board approved $13,000 in emergency spending at the plant in August 2008 after a storm knocked out two of three air compressors that aid in the pumping of lime sludge to a de-watering building. They had not been replaced since the plant was constructed in 1968, said McGuffie.

 There was no service interruption in that incident.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com