By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
UPDATE – The Mississippi State Department of Health has clarified Northeast Itawamba Water Association areas No. 1 Ridge and No. 2 Salem are under water conservation notices only. The notices were listed with other boil-water alerts, but customers in those areas do not need to boil water for safe consumption.
More than 16,000 Northeast Mississippians in seven water districts are currently under boil water notices from the Mississippi State Department of Health.
People in these affected areas should bring water to a rolling boil for a full minute before using it to drink, cook, clean vegetables, make ice or brush teeth. It’s safe to bathe in, as long as you do not swallow the water.
“It’s very inconvenient sometimes,” said Melissa Parker, deputy director of the Bureau of Public Water Supply. “We are very conservative; we err on the side of public health.”
In three districts – Kossuth No. 1, Sun Creek Water Association in Pheba and Old Union Water Association in Shannon – the boil water notices were issued because testing found the presence of bacteria in samples.
Coliform bacteria are naturally present in the environment, but chlorination in water systems should largely wipe them out. Their presence in a preponderance of samples means that potentially harmful bacteria may be present. However, all three of these systems tested negative for E.coli, one of the potentially harmful bacteria, Parker said.
In four districts – City of Saltillo, Prentiss-Alcorn and two Northeast Itawamba districts – loss of pressure in the water system triggered the boil water notices, not the presence of bacteria in water samples.
“It’s a precautionary notice,” Parker said. “If there’s a loss of pressure, water can be sucked back into the system” introducing bacteria.
Problems with pressure loss can be quite common when temperatures are extreme, Parker said. The line breaks also can be connected with construction, such as currently under way with the Saltillo water system.
The pressure loss in the Northeast Itawamba County districts has been attributed to dropping water levels in their wells. Those districts are also under water conservation notice.
Affected water customers should have been notified by their water associations about the boil water notices.
Lee County Road 136 resident Rommie Jones said he and his neighbors have complained repeatedly to the Old Union Water Association and the Department of Health about the quality of the water.
“The water comes out smelling like sewage,” Jones said.
About every two weeks, he finds brown, oily sediment in the water that will stain clothes and build up inside his water heater. Family members and neighbors have talked about having chronic gastro-intestinal problems, too.
“When they stopped drinking the water, they got better,” Jones said.
Calls to the Old Union Water System on Tuesday and Wednesday were not answered.
The Old Union and other water systems under boil water notices must have two consecutive days of clear samples to have the boil water notices lifted.
Even when water is looking fine, health department engineers have to test the water to see if there is a public safety hazard.
“Just because it smells or looks browner doesn’t indicate bacteria,” Parker said.
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.