The Investigators: Some hospitals struggle with low water pressure, boil water advisory

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:29 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - MLGW’s boil water advisory remains in effect through at least the start of next week.

The utility says broken water mains and non-functioning pumping wells are creating low water pressure and water must be boiled before consumption.

Hospitals are struggling both with the advisory and low water pressure.

“Are you all having to boil water?” asked The Investigators.

“Yes, 100%,” said Dr. Samuel Pieh, Chief Operating Officer of Baptist Memphis Hospital. “We’re boiling large amounts of water, essentially on a large stove, for utilization. In doing so, it helps ensure anything that’s viable or could spread. If you boil it at a high enough level, it does kill that bacteria.”

According to Dr. Pieh, for the most part, the hospital is running normally because patient volume is down by nearly 50%.

The hospital is able to perform surgeries and pass out bottled water to patients.

“It’s been like a scene out of movie,” said Dr. Pieh.

It’s been like a movie both inside and outside of the hospital, where the demand for bottled water has left shelves empty in various grocery stores.

Ben Helm and Mark Jones went to a Cooper-Young convenience store Friday to purchase bottled water after MLGW extended its boil water advisory from Friday to at least Monday afternoon.

“I was astounded. I grew up here and never had to boil water before,” said Jones. “I mean, I don’t think the city has ever had to do this. Not in my lifetime.”

Not in MLGW’s 82-year history either.

The utility company said in a news conference Friday that it’s working to fix its equipment and broken water mains so the water pressure can get up to a normal level, with its priorities being hospitals and hydrants to ensure health and safety.

“Hospitals are really struggling so we’re doing our best to keep our hospitals in business,” said Nick Newman, MLGW’s Vice President of Engineering.

The Investigators reached out to area hospitals and asked about impact.

Methodist Le Bonheur said it “is experiencing challenges in some facilities”.

St. Jude has switched to bottled water and bagged ice. Plus, all non-urgent surgeries are postponed.

St. Francis is only performing emergency procedures.

Regional One is boiling water and bringing in drinkable water.

Baptist Memphis says most patients cancelled their appointments due to the winter weather, which put them in a good position.

“It’s been good not to have as many people, however, we do want to let everyone know we’re open and available and have access to care that’s needed,” said Dr. Pieh.

The CDC recommends you boil water for consumption for at least a minute before letting it cool.

It is precautionary as MLGW says no contaminants have been found in the water yet but it will continue to test.

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