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Water-pressure emergency prompts all-hands-on deck response

The line filled with Memphis residents seeking free cases of bottled water wound from the east side of the distribution point of the Memphis Light, Gas & Water community office at 2935 Lamar, around the building onto Lamar, west to Dunn, south to Pendleton and then as far east as could be seen by the eye.

Motorists lined up and waiting along Lamar to receive a case of bottled water. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

The afternoon distribution was part of coping with storm-triggered water issues that may be around for four to five days before repairs are totally complete. MLGW put out a call for donated water and Memphis-area residents – some prominent, others not – responded to the emergency.

MLGW President Doug McGown confers with Gale Jones Carson, vice president of Community & External Affairs at MLGW’s community office at 2935 Lamar. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

According to Doug McGowen, MLGW’s president and CEO, 22 breaks were detected in the water distribution system, with crews focused on repairing three that had not been as of a midday briefing at the Lamar office.

“Today our focus is on restoring water to people that do not have it,” McGowen said. “We have a lot of water and we are pushing a lot of water out. The problem is that with so many breaks the water is just not getting to the endpoint of people’s homes and the businesses.”

Midtown along with Northwest and Southwest Shelby County were noted as areas without water.

MLGW President/CEO Doug McGowen multi-tasking at MLGW’s community office on Lamar. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

Further complicating the problem are leaks at businesses and homes. In a release Sunday evening, MLGW noted that “we have identified a large number of commercial businesses with fire protection system leaks or breaks. … Those breaks significantly decrease pressure and volume of water in the system and prevent it from getting to other customers.”

Commercial property owners were asked to check on their property and secure any breaks as soon as possible.

Seeking help, MLGW asked that if “you see water coming from the street or a building, please let us know by calling (the) 24-hour emergency number, 528-4465.”

The difficulty prompted a boil-water alert that remains in effect until further notice. A multi-step process for lifting the alert involves getting the water pressure back up, a test of the water by MLGW followed by a sign-off from state officials.

MLGW’S tip list regarding the boil-water alert begins with DO NOT DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST.

Then these instructions:

Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for three (3) minutes, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water.

Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.

Tap water is safe for bathing and showering but try to avoid getting it in your mouth.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2lC2ZDa

Each vehicle was loaded with one case of bottled water to help with the water-issue emergency. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

The water-issue concerns, including the time projected for repairs, prompted MLGW’s call for donated bottled water and the subsequent free distribution at the Lamar site, 5141 Navy Rd. and 1111 E. Shelby Dr.

Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones Jr. was among those who answered the call, showing up with numerous cases of water distributed at the Lamar site. Minutes before the distribution began, a woman driving an SUV with Bedford County plates showed up with her vehicle loaded.

MLGW workers quickly unloaded the donated water and thanked her profusely, waving to her as she drove off.

MLGW employees unload donated bottled water. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

Minutes later, the distribution began. Recipients were waved forward and asked to pop open their trunks or lower their truck tailgates.

Each vehicle was loaded with one case by MLGW workers who organized themselves for the task at hand.

Waiting on the next vehicle. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)

Meanwhile, MLGW adjusted its advisory about letting faucets drip to keep pipes from freezing. Customers are asked not to do that unless temperatures drop below freezing.


At 7:30 p.m., MLGW detailed — a via a news release — that the Emergency Water Management Phase of the Drought Management plan now is in effect.

All Customers “need to limit all non-essential water uses as MLGW works to find, fix or isolate main breaks and broken water services.

“All non-essential water uses such as washing cars is prohibited until further notice. All carwash facilities are being notified to cease operations immediately.”

In addition, another round of distributed bottle water has been scheduled for Tuesday beginning at 10 a.m. and continuing until noon (or whenever supplies run out) at two locations:

Pleasant Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, 3813 Benjestown Rd. and Hickory Ridge Mall 6075 Winchester Rd.

The boil water advisory still is in effect until further notice.





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