Friday, August 12, the Town Council room at the town hall was filled with concerned citizens, business owners, school representatives, and hospital executives who have water issues. Opening the meeting was Representative Kenny Cox. He was joined by Town Council members Peter Drake and Reginald Prelow, Jr. Mr. Cox offered an apology on behalf of the mayor, who was unable to attend. He introduced town engineer Brad Graf.
Mr. Graf began with a review of the timeline for the 7 million dollar water upgrade. He explained that most of the problems have been due to the old pipes that were laid in 1950 by CLECO and later extended in 1970. These pipes contained iron and asbestos. All new PVC pipes have replaced the 15 miles of water pipes.
As of Friday, the areas from Ada St. and south on Highway 71 and north of Wilkinson have been changed over to the new system. Residents from both of these areas attended the meeting and indicated that not only is the water dirty looking, but they also have very little water pressure. Mr. Graf said that a large water leak in one of the old pipes between the school baseball field and Springville might be the problem and would be fixed that day. Audience members interjected that perhaps more people should be looking for the leaks. One person asked how many workers were employed by the town for the water department. Chief Stafford answered that there were two people.
Another concerned audience member lifted a jug of dirty water that she said had been drawn from her sink. She asked if anyone wanted to drink it. Although some laughs came from the audience, Representative Cox said no, he would not expect that he or anyone else would want to use the water. He said that everything would be done to make the water better as soon as possible.
Other members of the community indicated that better communication was needed from the Town or water department. Frustration was high among all of the participants. Chief Stafford said that a phone number would be dedicated to offering answers for water problems. He did not know what number they would use. School Superintendent Alison Strong offered help in communication through the school system’s phone/text platform if the town would send notices to the technology department.
Final questions from the audience addressed timelines for the problems to end. Although no concrete answers were available, Mr. Graf gave a timeline of two weeks to one month of further “growing pains” before all of the old pipes would be capped off or circumvented altogether. He said that the wells were pumping 24 hours, and more water was going out than was coming in. The town has been shutting off the water at night to ensure that there is enough water in the daytime to prevent schools and businesses from shutting down.
To end the meeting, everyone was told to go home and check for leaks in their neighborhoods. Another solution for residents is to check faucets and showerheads, and hot water heaters for debris that might be inhibiting the flow of water.