By NEMS Daily Journal
Public water supply interruptions usually happen under controlled situations – intentionally shut down for maintenance, repair or to bring equipment on line.
The post-New Year’s sub-freezing weather pushed Jackson and Walnut beyond the line, causing water mains to burst and other parts of delivery systems to malfunction.
Thousands of Mississippians realized how much convenient, available, clean water is taken for granted when they did without water for days or had pressure so low it was made unpotable without boiling.
When Gov. Barbour delivered his state-of-the-state address in the House chamber of the Capitol on Monday night it culminated days of postponements and rescheduling – a virtual lost week in terms of the state’s conduct of business in downtown Jackson. Employees return to work today.
Jackson officials don’t need additional criticism about the state of their city’s water infrastructure. They’ve admitted that old, outdated pipes were a major source of the problem during days of abnormal, frigid temperatures. As of Monday, water was flowing again, and officials have promised wider corrective actions – long-term fixes. At one point, more than 100 burst lines in the capital city held the public in a dirty, frustrating vise.
The deep freeze, although infrequent, is well known to most long-term Mississippians. Temperatures below zero in northern Mississippi are a matter of record, and single-digit cold is no stranger to many other parts of the state.
The only thing individuals, institutions, cities and counties can do is prepare for the times when it happens.
In Jackson, in the middle of the water-deprived area, the advance work of St. Dominic’s Hospital and the University of Mississippi Medical Center hospitals kept water flowing because both have their own sources and systems – appropriate safeguards against costly, dangerous interruptions.
Cities selling water to the public obviously have water systems, but do cities in the harsh-freeze zones know the cold-weather limits of their distribution networks?
The interim after this freeze, the hardest since at least 2003, possibly longer, provides the right kind of momentum for a serious assessment, followed by information for the public.
Keeping the water flowing
– Keep pipes from freezing by checking for drafts in basements and crawl spaces.
– Allow warm air to reach pipes under kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities.
– Remove garden hoses from outside water faucets.
– Leave cold valve open to allow back pressure to clear the line.
– Make sure open water valves have somewhere to drain.