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Public needs clarification on water issues

Editor’s note: The city has about 5,000 customer accounts, but actually serves about 12,500 people from the water supply, based on information from the Mississippi Department of Health.

Due to the events of recent weeks there is much confusion which I hope this informative piece will clarify. The City of Brookhaven serves 5,000 citizens with water. We operate a treatment plant that has four wells feeding the plant — three on North Railroad Avenue and one at 116 Willard St. These wells average approximately 200 feet in depth and a pH of 6.0 on the raw water.

The water goes first through aerators which mix air into the water in order to remove troublesome gases as it raises the pH level. Once through the aerators, the water falls to a clear well. A clear well is a tank that holds 440,000 gallons of water. This water is then introduced to lime to increase the pH up to a level of around a target of 8.0 ppb. Chlorine is added at this point for disinfection of the water at a 1.5 ppb (parts per billion). The last addition is fluoride at 1 mg/l for the purpose of reduction in tooth decay among consumers who regularly drink the water. From this point tests are conducted at the treatment plant for chlorine, pH and fluoride. There are two 30-horsepower service pumps that pump 1,300 gallons a minute each.

The City also has three other active wells —  Della Green well on Zetus Road, Linbrook well on Saints Trail and Fender well located Fender Drive.

There are four water tanks with usable storage of 2.69 million gallons that work together to support the city’s seven wells. This water system pumps an average of 2 million gallons of water a day. Once a month 12 Bacti samples (testing for contaminants) are taken throughout the city. These sites are listed with the Mississippi Department of Health. The sites for testing are rotated each month. When samples are collected, they are sent to the Mississippi Department of Health in Jackson. It takes 18 hours for the samples to be tested and receive results.

Mitchell Technical Services the contractor that oversees the Water Treatment Plant and the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Ralph Augimeri and his team at Mitchell Technical Services have done a superb job for the City of Brookhaven and its citizens. The work they perform is commendable and they have a record of working very hard in coordination with the City Water Department to keep our water running and safe, especially when times are tough. This includes testing, monitoring and treating.

Water works is not a 5-day a week job but instead is 24/7 for 365 days a year. There have been multiple upgrades to the city Waste Water Treatment Plant (sewer) and to the Water Treatment Plant (potable water). Investments run into thousands of dollars on an annual basis. There is a continual annual updating process. We are blessed to have some of the best water in the world as well as a plentiful supply. Our water comes from ground water, which is the best source as it is a big plus over pumping water from rivers and lakes.

Getting water to customers’ faucets is handled by the Brookhaven Water Department, which is managed by Kris Xifos. As the director of Public Works I can’t say enough good about all the guys who work in the water department. They receive over 100 work orders each month that vary from fixing leaks, setting sewer taps, water taps, meter change outs, 811 water line locates and other jobs involved in the overall water and sewer maintenance. The employees in the office answer the phones, provide customer service, keep all the requests in order, handle complaints, etc., all with a smile and a good attitude.

The water department employees are out working more than you may realize. At night when you are in your beds sleeping, or on holidays such as enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with your families, they are often on the job working for you. We all take our jobs seriously and are committed to keeping your water flowing and safe for consumption. That is what we do.

Each year the City of Brookhaven is inspected by the Mississippi State Department of Health. This inspection covers the areas of technical, financial and managerial.

The overall capacity rating ranges from 0 to 5.0, with 5 being the best possible rating. Through the years, Brookhaven’s ratings have steadily increased, from a 2.7 in 2002 to a 5 in 2016. The ratings have increased dramatically and are currently at the highest level awarded by the State, which is due to years of engaged leadership and management toward improvement of the water systems. Additional investments, more technical support and management has been prioritized to result in these improvements. The management team has focused on finding ways to save on expenses while at the same time improving the infrastructure and service to customers.

These improvements could not have been made without the support of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen working together to ensure that the safety of the water and sewer system and the infrastructure of the systems are maintained, updated and improved.

Following are some facts I want to share with you that many people don’t know.

• The Water Dept. stands on its own financially. It is against the law for city taxes to be used to defray water system expenses.

• Water works certified operators are required to operate a water works system. Brookhaven has five certified water works operators including me.

• The electric power costs for the pumping and treatment of water for Brookhaven averages $20,000 per month.

• A water main line break in the winter or during other significant changes in weather occurs due to the ground moving, which is the actual cause of the break in the pipes.

• Water charges are measured and calculated based on thousand-gallon increments on your bill.

• The cause of “white” water is air in the lines. You should flush you lines if this occurs.

  Meter readers do not have to exit their vehicles to read most meters in the city. The meters are read by radio, which is much more accurate reading than in older meters.

Keith Lewis is director of Public Works for the City of Brookhaven. He can be reached at bklewis@cableone.net.

Keith Lewis

Keith Lewis