Parish officials working to resolve water problems in Dville

Halen Doughty

Several days of hard freezes left Donaldsonville residents without water, but parish officials say they are working to ensure that does not happen again. Parish President Kenny Matassa said officials are taking a close look at what happened and putting together a plan to prevent it going forward.

"It's a very old system, and there's things we need to do," said Matassa. "But anytime Niagara Falls freezes up, we have problems."

Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel said the operators at the water plant noticed that on Tuesday, January 2, the water levels were high and they were losing their reserve. This was unusual because water consumption typically goes down at night when people use less water.

Daniel said water use had increased because of frozen pipes bursting and people dripping their faucets.

By the time crews realized what had happened, the reserve takes were almost entirely gone. Daniel said they had to work quickly to get water restored.

"We made our first priority to get the hospital, the dialysis center, and the nursing home back on line," said Daniel. "So we were able to get that system pressurized, and we started feeding that."

From there, they began working on getting water to residents. He said unfortunately they were not able to restore service for everyone, but he estimates they got water to about 80 percent of residents that day.

Once service was restored to households in Dville, crews had to replenish the reserve tanks. Daniel said they kept the pressure up while the dialysis center was open, but once it closed for the night, they were able to reduce the pressure and feed water back into the reserves.

The trouble continued as they opened more valves and found more leads in the system. Daniel commended the employees who worked long hours in tough conditions to get the system working properly again.

"This is an experience that I hope we don't have to repeat, but as always there've been some valuable lessons learned, and we will incorporate those into our operating procedures moving forward," said Daniel.

Daniel noted this incident did shine light on some of the problems within the water system. He added there was no plan in place for dealing with this kind of weather event, which is rare in Louisiana. They had already begun writing the operating procedures in case of such an incident, and now they have more information to use in establishing a game plan for extended bouts hard freezes.

"Cold weather exposes all the vulnerabilities of the pipes, and there were plenty of vulnerabilities that got exposed," said Daniel.

The City of Donaldsonville lifted the boil advisory on January 9.

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