Water everywhere but not a drop to drink: Burst main declared an emergency

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A burst water main drained virtually all the water out of Selma’s tanks and left many Selma residents inconvenienced Wednesday evening, but that wasn’t why Selma’s fire chief was really worried.

“What makes this an emergency is that the city has no water. If a fire breaks out…,” Selma Mayor James Perkins said, letting his thought trail off. “The fire chief is standing here right now, scared to death.”

The burst line at the corner of Broad and Jeff Davis, a main line connected to one of the city’s tanks, left most Selma residents without water Wednesday.

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Not only did the break leave Selma homes and businesses without water, but the SFD’s ability to fight a large fire was weakened by the lack of water.

Perkins stressed that the public should boil drinking water for at least the next 24 hours until the bacteria test results come back from the lab, probably Friday midday.

Perkins, who is also superintendent of the Water Board, said the burst occurred as workers were capping the water line during routine maintenance.

“The water pressure blew the cap off,” Perkins said. “We were really blessed that no one was injured.”

Perkins said the burst caused virtually all of the water tanks in town to be emptied.

“This is a bad situation,” he said.

Perkins expected the crews to work into the evening to fix the pipe, then begin the process of refilling the tanks.

Residents are warned to clear the lines once the water is restored and avoid brown colored water.

Residents should run their water for at least 10 minutes once the tanks are filled and water returns to the tap, Debbie Myers Peeples, Water Board Customer Service Supervisor, said.

“When those tanks are filled, people are going to see brown water,” Perkins said.

When the water would be fully restored was uncertain, but Peeples said some residents would not have water until early morning.

“The broken water main affected the entire low end of the city,” Peeples said. “There is no water south of Highland Avenue to the river.”

Perkins said crews would stay on the job until water is restored.

“These guys are working as hard as they can as fast as they can until it’s done,” he said. “We’ll be here until it’s finished.”

Perkins said described the situation Wednesday as a “first class” emergency.

He compared it to Councilman Cecil Williamson’s request to have the cave-in on Crescent Hill Drive declared an emergency situation.

“This is a real emergency. It has been declared an emergency. You really want to preserve the times you do that for real emergencies,” Perkins said. “This is a first class one. Some things are critical (like the cave-in at Crescent Hill) but it’s just not an emergency.”

City crews worked throughout the night until the city’s water tanks were refilled, Perkins said.

As word began to spread around town about the lack of water, many area residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water and other drinks.

Both of the Selma Winn-Dixie stores were completely out of bottled water by yesterday evening, and the majority of the people in the check-out lanes had grocery carts full of soft drinks and juice.

The water outage also affected area restaurants, like Major Grumbles who closed their doors early on Wednesday.

For the ones that still had water, like the Tally Ho, that meant an extra boost to business.

“Business is wonderful,” restaurant owner Bob Kelley said. “We got a good response from hotels and restaurants who directed business to us. We were happy to have water.”