Boil water advisory lifted; MLGW looks to future investments

Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 6:08 PM CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thursday began like every day this week with water giveaways in several spots across the city.

MLGW and donors gave cases of water to customers who were either impacted by the boil water advisory or not having any water after winter weather put the major utility company on the ropes.

“I had to boil water at about 3 o’clock this morning,” said MLGW customer Cherry Echols. “I wanted some water and so, I boiled it and said ‘I’m not drinking that water’ because they said it makes you sick.”

She said her water pressure is back up to normal but hopes more is done to ensure she and other customers don’t have to go for days without having clean drinking water.

“I hope that we can do something,” said Echols. “We need water. We’ve got to bathe; we need it to cook.”

Thursday afternoon, MLGW announced the boil water notice had been lifted, welcome news for customers.

With the utility company and its customers coming out of the woods of this utility debacle, the big question is what’s being done to prevent this from happening again?

All week, MLGW President and CEO Doug McGowen was questioned on if the last week is what customers should accept as the new standard that the infrastructure just collapses every time a cold front moves through.

McGowen said though the last week has provided its challenges, there were fewer challenges than the winter storm in 2021.

“We put $53 million of infrastructure improvements into our water system,” McGowen said. “If we had not made those investments, many more people would’ve had low pressure and many more people would’ve been without water.”

That $53 million is a part of the $1.2 billion in investment that’s been budgeted for MLGW’s five-year plan that started this year.

“$800 million have been programmed into our electrical - much of that is underway, about $228 million into our water system, and about another $130 million in our gas system,” McGowen laid out.

McGowen recently met with the Shelby County delegation, including Sen. Raumesh Akbari.

She told us the meeting was transparent and insightful, especially regarding the details of the five-year plan.

“It made me feel confident that we’ll be in a new era where we won’t have these issues related to water every time we have a deep freeze,” Akbari said.

The big part of the plan is that the plan doesn’t involve a rate hike for customers.

“MLGW bills are always a big part of a family’s budget, and being able to have improvements and not have a rate increase is crucial, especially when you’re dealing with inflation,” said Akbari.

The meeting was also a way for lawmakers to ask what they could do in the upcoming general assembly.

For Akbari, she’d like to take a look at the commercial buildings with major fire suppressions, which was the main driver for the low water pressure across the MLGW coverage area.

“I’d like to look at some sort of a monitoring system or some sort of requirements so that when those types of things happen, you know right away,” Akbari said.

Akbari also said conversations with TVA may be in the future so that everyone is on the same page when the next winter storm rolls through.

Wednesday, TVA took ownership of the electric production shortfall, saying they’re doing a deep-dive into the winter storm and take possible corrective action(s), depending on their findings.

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