Water plant running normally, boil water notice continues

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Vicksburg’s water treatment plant on Haining Road is back to full operation after being shut down by a power outage that knocked out the city’s water wells and affected the pumps moving water from the plant to the city’s water tanks scattered across town.

“The pumps are up and running, and everything is normal,” Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman said Wednesday. “We’re going to start pulling samples today; hopefully, we can pull the boil water notice by Friday.”

He said the citywide boil water notice issued late Monday when the wells went down remains in effect. He said city officials may be able to lift the boil water notice sometime this weekend. The city must provide two consecutive days of clear samples to the Mississippi Department of Health before state officials will allow the notice to be lifted.

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City residents should continue to vigorously boil their drinking and cooking water for two minutes or use an alternate source of water until the notice is lifted. Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer said Culkin Water District officials have agreed to put a faucet and bleed a water line at the fire plug in front of their headquarters on Sherman Avenue to make water available for city residents at no charge.

Vicksburg Warren School District spokesperson Christi Kilroy said all public schools will run a regular schedule Wednesday, and bottled drinking water will be provided to students at affected schools until the boil water notice is lifted.

Van Norman said the pumps resumed operation Tuesday night after shutting down because of an electrical problem at the 48-year-old plant. The shutdown prevented the pumps from moving water to the tanks, causing them to run dry.

The problems began Monday night when a tree fell on power lines sending power to the city’s well fields on Hanining Road and Long Lake Road, knocking out power to 10 city wells. The outage also blew fuses at the water treatment plant, causing a brief power outage.

“The generator came on (when the power went out) and performed like it should,” Van Norman said. “We were able to get things back on line with Entergy Tuesday morning.”

Soon after, he said, at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the pumps went down. The water treatment plant has five pumps, Van Norman said, and one of those was already down for maintenance. The problems at the plant spawned two emergency meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday afternoon to address the shutdown.

Van Norman said the exact cause of the electrical problem that affected the pumps is unknown, but added the plant’s electrical system is old and outdated, and it is hard to get electrical problems at the plant repaired because parts are no longer made for the system.

The board has discussed replacing the electrical system with a more updated system, a project estimated at about $5 million.

The boil water notice and loss of water pressure forced Vicksburg schools, municipal buildings and businesses to closing early Tuesday.

Affected schools in the Vicksburg Warren School District closed at 1 p.m. Those included the Academy of Innovation, Vicksburg Junior High School, Warren Central Junior High, Bowmar Elementary, Vicksburg High School, Warrenton Elementary and Fresh Start Academy.

Porters Chapel Academy dismissed school at about noon. Vicksburg Catholic Schools dismissed classes at about 12:30 p.m.

The Warren County Courthouse also closed at noon, and several restaurants in town closed.

“We’ve never had anything like that happen,” Van Norman said. “We called (Monroe, La.-based) Patrick Electric, and Wesley Jones, who was working on the elevator, pitched in.”

The city also received help from retired water plant manager Lamar Hefner, who Van Norman said provided needed expertise on the pumps.

“His father managed the water plant when it opened, and he grew up there,” he said. “He ran the plant until he retired 10 years ago.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to go through something like this again,” he said.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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