Officials: Water Dept. did well during freeze
There is one constant in the water service industry. Drastic changes in weather are responsible for nearly all of the problems.
“Extreme temperatures, fluctuations – this is what causes the problems, the cracked, burst or broken pipes. When you have days like we just had, you tend to have problems,” said Brookhaven Water Department Supervisor Keith Lewis.
Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Jackson issued a hard freeze warning for the area due to the extreme subfreezing temperatures and the prolonged period of time that temperatures were expected to remain below freezing.
The performance of Brookhaven’s water department was also already under extra scrutiny during the hard freeze, as city officials look toward extending city water and sewer services into formerly annexed areas in the near future.
By Tuesday night’s board of aldermen’s meeting, Lewis updated city officials on the status of city water. “We’ve heard some problems in the county, but so far, we have nothing to report of in the city. We won’t know for sure how things stand until tomorrow or Thursday, but we are happy to say we aren’t experiencing some of
the problems elsewhere.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Lewis and assistant water department supervisor Kris Xifos reflected on the extreme cold snap and some of the duties of the water/sewer department in general.
On a day-to-day basis, Xifos says, the department oversees the pumping of two million gallons of water a day. During the hard freeze, that average increased by a half million gallons as many residents kept their faucets running to prevent frozen, burst pipes.
Xifos believes an earlier stretch of cold weather helped the department prepare for the hard freeze. In late November, temperatures dropped into the low 20s.
“Due to the weather we had on Thanksgiving break, we were able to determine what needed fixing, and what could be improved. This went a long ways in helping us with the hard freeze, something that can’t be anticipated,” Xifos noted.
The good news for the city of Brookhaven is that the recent cold weather is also a great litmus test for the summer months, and can be used as a learning curve in the aim to prevent future problems, or manage existing ones.
Presently, Lewis oversees 17 employees at the department including the clerks at the Brookhaven Lincoln County Government Complex, office management and the service crews. According to Lewis, three crews operate on a 24/7 basis, seven days a week. There are two three-man crews devoted to water and one three-man crew devoted to the sewer. Part of the daily routine includes a check of all city water and sewer wells.
In other matters, Lewis noted several items he wants to make the public aware of. He pointed out that increased activity in neighborhoods by water department officials is likely the result of a change in meter system equipment. The department is upgrading its meters with a radio read system. The upgrade will allow the department to check water meters well away from the actual property by using radio.
“Some people have been wondering why we have been in their neighborhoods. This might help people understand what we are doing,” said Lewis.
Lewis also advises residents to learn how to turn their water on or off as soon as they move into a new residence.
“This is usually a very easy process. It would help us save time and allow us to concentrate on other matters,” Lewis said.
Another upgrade taking place will alleviate time spent traveling to the central water station, said Lewis. In the next two months, the department will convert to a digitized system that can be accessed remotely. Larger cities use this system, and as Brookhaven looks to potentially add water and sewer services into new areas, the system’s convenience and efficiency will be a welcome addition, Lewis said.
Lewis also expressed appreciation for the hard work of the departmental work force, which is something he also recently made note of when he introduced a number of the employees at an aldermen’s meeting.
“These are the men and women of the water department. When you don’t hear anything, it’s because of them,” said Lewis.