Questions still remain about water main break
A lot of our viewers have been asking if Tennessee American Water (TAW) has a backup system in case Chattanooga experiences another emergency.
We sent that question to the company Tuesday morning. Spokesperson Daphne Kirksey responded hours later with the following statement from Kurt Stafford, Tennessee American Water Manager of Engineering:
“Tennessee American Water delivers drinking water from the water treatment plant to the service area through several mains each of which has multiple valves. Each main carries large volumes of water into the water distribution system to fill storage tanks, meet customer demand and maintain system pressure.”
Channel 3 replied and asked for clarification. We posed the question a second time. Kirksey responded saying, "The main break occurred during a construction project to enhance the resiliency of the transmission system, which impacted a portion of the system. The resiliency project has been completed."
While waiting for a response Tuesday afternoon, Channel 3 reached out to Dalton Utilities.
"I know it' a very stressful event. In their case even more stressful just because they had such a large number of customers impacted. Nobody wants that," said Mark Buckner, Dalton Utilities' chief of watershed operations and economic development. "Unfortunately, in that case, they didn't have the redundancy that we have in Dalton."
Buckner says the company experienced a similar water main break in November.
"Getting the water back was fairly easy compared to the damage that the water leak created to road infrastructure. We had a large highway that was closed for about three days," he explained.
However, Buckner says their customers never lost service. The company has about 24 water tanks, several interconnections with surrounding communities and three separate water treatment facilities. Two transmission lines are connected to one of their largest facility, which is what Buckner says protected their customers.
"The beauty of those is that they're completely redundant. We have experienced large catastrophic failures on one of those lines at a time and been able to meet system demand and not have any customers impacted."
Buckner says his team also keeps track of all of their valves and routinely checks them. They also keep essential repair parts on hand in case of an emergency.
But more importantly, Buckner says they strive to remain transparent.
"You know pipelines fail. I think as long as you're upfront with your customers they will largely understand."
We followed up with Mayor Andy Berke, who has requested a debriefing with TAW. A date for that has not been set. Mayor Berke sent the following statement:
"As I’ve stated previously, my top priority throughout this entire event was getting service fully restored as quickly as possible while doing whatever we could to protect the health and safety of Chattanoogans. This was a major disruption to tens of thousands of people across our community, and I am grateful this didn’t extend even further into the week. I expect Tennessee American Water to give me a full debriefing as soon as possible on the state of their system, what caused the break, and what plans they have to prevent an incident like this from happening at this magnitude again. As we learn more, that information will help shape any actions taken by the city in the future."