When water is bad, notification should be top priority

Published 10:10 am Friday, July 31, 2015

When it comes to drinking water, quality is important. When a local water system has a problem that requires a boil-water alert, getting that information to customers should be a priority.

But it doesn’t seem like it is, according to customers who complained to the newspaper. They described instances of having water problems but receiving no communication from the water system.

According to the Mississippi Department of Health, individual water systems (such as the Brookhaven Water Department or the Lincoln Rural Water Association) issue precautionary boil-water alerts when water pressure is lost. Water systems are responsible for notifying their customers directly using whatever means necessary when a self-imposed alert is issued.

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MSDH will post self-imposed alerts if individual water systems inform them. MSDH will issue press releases to radio, television and newspapers in the affected area to supplement the public notification efforts of the water system. But sometimes, water systems don’t immediately notify MSDH.

So how do customers find out? In Brookhaven, the water system uses a door-to-door notification system if the problem is confined to a small area.

Anson Brewer, field manager at the Lincoln Rural Water Association, said when an alert is needed, they contact the health department and issue a press release to newspapers and radio stations. Word-of-mouth is how most people find out the fastest, Brewer said.

While those measures are a good step, they shouldn’t be the only way water systems attempt to notify customers of water problems. Surely there’s more that can be done.

We encourage local water systems to explore more ways to communicate with their customers. Few resources are as important as clean drinking water. When that water isn’t clean, every customer should know.