MLGW: Despite ongoing rumors, no plans to disconnect water to residential customers

As of Friday, no contaminants found in water supply
Crew works to repair water main break in downtown Memphis
Crew works to repair water main break in downtown Memphis
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:48 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:49 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The president and CEO of MLGW reiterated Friday that the utility company is not disconnecting water to residential customers following the Mid-South’s extreme winter weather.

J.T. Young spoke during a virtual news conference Friday afternoon alongside other officials with MLGW and the Shelby County Heath Department.

“We are not planning to shut off residential service,” Young said.

Young said MLGW is reaching out to large water users -- typically commercial or industrial customers -- to curtail usage as much as possible. He used TVA, which operates the Allen Plant, as an example and said they are cooperating with MLGW’s request to limit consumption.

In some cases, if those large users are unable to restrict their consumption, MLGW can shut off that service, but Young says that will not affect residential customers in any way. He explained if people in homes or apartments don’t have water, it’s either because of a broken main or a leak in the pipes somewhere.

Young said crews have repaired 60 broken water mains since last Saturday and they’re currently working to repair five others. They expect more to come as temperatures warm and lines shift underground.

There are approximately 3,700 miles of water mains throughout Shelby County, according to Nick Newman, MLGW’s vice president of engineering and operations.

Newman talked about the bigger issue of failing pumping wells.

“The wells that deliver the water to the reservoirs are failing,” he said. “We are repairing those wells. The problem is there’s not enough production coming out of those wells to keep our reservoirs full and keep pressure on the system.”

Newman also said hospitals are struggling and MLGW is doing what they can to keep them going with help from the Emergency Management Agency and Memphis Fire Department.

On Thursday, the utility issued a precautionary boil water advisory until further notice because of low water pressure, which can introduce bacteria into the water supply.

As of Friday, Young and Newman said no contaminants have been discovered in the water supply and the boil water advisory remains precautionary.

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Newman would not offer an estimate for when the advisory would be lifted but said MLGW’s system would have to stabilize first, then water samples across the county would be tested for bacteria before it’s deemed safe.

He asked residents to report any water spewing from buildings or in streets so crews can investigate potential line breaks.

Meanwhile, the Shelby County Health Department issued a health directive Friday closing restaurants that can’t comply with the boil water advisory.

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