Water pressure issues in August created problems

Published 8:37 am Thursday, December 22, 2016

Editor’s note: This story is the part of The Vicksburg  Post’s annual review of the top stories of 2016. The series will continue through Saturday, Dec. 30.

For a city that sits alongside one of the largest rivers in the world, water became a scarce commodity in late August as problems at the city of Vicksburg’s water treatment facility caused days of boil water issues throughout the city and water pressure issues that forced some businesses and schools to close.

The issues also forced residents to flock to area grocery and convenience stores to purchase bottles of water, with many locations selling out.

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“For the past few hours, we’ve had a huge spike,” said Corner Market director Marcus Tucker in the midst of the late-August water issue. “We have a truck of 24-packs of water coming in this afternoon to meet demand. It has gotten to the point now that as soon as we hear about a boil water notice, our employees are good about trying to get on top of that. We’re doing our best to help the customers.”

The problems began Monday, Aug. 29, when an overnight storm forced a tree to fall on power lines leading 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,” Vicksburg Public Works Director Garnet 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 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.

“We could not pump water from the water plant back to town,” he said. “We had to go up there and go through all this different stuff to try to figure out what it was.”

Power was restored the next day, but because the pressure had fallen so much, the boil water notice was not lifted for another three days later, on Sept. 2.

For local restaurants, that meat buying bottled water to sell to customers and to even be able to serve tea and coffee.

“We’re using bottle water we bought to boil for tea, and we’ve shut down our fountain drinks and getting bottled water for customers,” said Chenara Brooks, director on duty at Chik-fil-A, at the time.

Area schools provided bottled water to students and used bottled water to to prepare meals.

“These schools include Academy of Innovation, Bowmar Avenue Elementary, Vicksburg High School, Vicksburg Junior High School, Warren Junior High School, Warrenton Elementary and the Fresh Start Academy,” Vicksburg Warren School District spokesperson Christi Kilroy said. “Bottled drinking water is being provided to students and staff at these locations and cafeterias will continue to follow existing procedures for safe food preparation.”

Van Norman later said 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.