UPDATED 4:30 P.M.
City workers have restored water pressure to all parts of the city, Mayor Harvey Johnson said at a press conference this afternoon. Johnson said that crews have successfully bypassed the section of 54-inch water line that failed last night, triggering a drop in water pressure across the city. Workers were able to determine the source of the failure: a cap on the water main, which is part of an unfinished section connecting the city's O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell water plants.
"Public work crews have determined that, as we suspected this morning, a cap on the 54-inch main actually blew off," Johnson said. "Contractors as well as city crews are confident that they can repair that particular main tonight."
City workers will start taking water samples tomorrow to deliver to the state Department of Health, but the city needs two consecutive days of clear tests before it can lift the citywide boil water alert. Johnson said he hoped the city would be able to lift the notice Saturday or Sunday.
The news comes after a morning press conference at which Johnson announced that he had officially declared a state of emergency for the city. Earlier this morning the city issued a boil water notice in response to the drop in water pressure.
"We're uncertain of the nature of the failure but the line is only about five years old," Johnson told reporters this morning, explaining that the city received calls of dropping pressure last night. "We don't know if the line itself has failed or (if) a cap on the line blown off. Crews are digging down toward the line now and hopefully we'll know soon."
The mayor said he declared a state of emergency partly because he wanted the city to have access to Mississippi Emergency Management Agency pumping trucks to help flush city water lines. He said he did not announce a boil water notice until this morning, because the need for the notice had yet to be confirmed last night.
In the meantime the city placed residents under a precautionary boil water notice, meaning residents should bring water to a rolling boil for about a minute before using to drink or brush their teeth. The city's pumps are working at regular rate and Johnson said he expects water pressure to be restored either this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Johnson requested residents wash clothes sparingly, not water their lawn, and avoid unnecessary water usage.
Unfortunately, Johnson said he expected the boil water notice to remain in effect through the weekend, because the water can only be tested for safety after achieving optimum pressure, and must pass tests two days in a row before being deemed safe.
The water issue comes during two major national events: the International Ballet Competition, which continues through this weekend at Thalia Mara Hall; and the National Champion Appaloosa horse show at the fairgrounds through July 3. Johnson said the city is supplying safe water to all events and is taking care to keep bottled water stocked at the city's senior citizen centers.
Johnson said the city installed a ductile steel line on Mule Jail Road five years ago with the intent of running it to one of the city's water plants at a future date. Johnson said that just a section of the line cost $5 million to install. Even though the line has no current destination, the water blasting from this morning's rupture reduces pressure for the rest of the municipality. City spokesman Chris Mims said the city plans to connect the line to the water plant by the end of the year.
Johnson said the line is 12 feet underground and that the rupture appears to have no connection with massive line failures that happened this winter after repeated below-freezing temperatures burst city pipes. The mayor said, however, that the city desperately needs to invest in water and sewer infrastructure.
"I'm very concerned about our water system, so much that we've made efforts to go to the (state) legislature this past legislative session and got a commitment of $6 million so they could help us prepare a system down in the capital complex area," Johnson said. "We're concerned enough to go to Congress and ask Congress for $10 million. We're constantly working on our system, yet we're still concerned that we need to make more improvements."
I had a slow but steady water flow at my house this morning. Not sure what it's like now.
- golden eagle
Water pressure seems to be back to normal where I am (I live just north of Fondren and work over by the downtown Y off Fortification), so I'm hoping they can test the water today and tomorrow and lift the notice on Saturday. *crossing fingers*
- Tim Kynerd
Tasha Smith, I don't understand your comment. What exactly "...is rediculous!"
Maybe she means the situation with the water, given that this is coming just months after the January crisis.
- golden eagle