| By John Howell Sr.
Crenshaw citizens, representatives of Water Management, Mayor Sylvester Reed and other town officials made claims and counter claims about the purity and chlorine content of the municipally-distributed water during Tuesday’s meeting of the board of mayor and aldermen.
Mayor Sylvester Reed fired the first salvo, referring to the sign message posted at Batesville Tire Mart for a period of days during February which stated: "Do not drink the water in Crenshaw or Mexico."
Reed mentioned the sign message as "the prank that was played" and said that Mississippi Department of Health engineer Jeff Williams had recently tested the town’s water.
"He said the water tested good; there’s nothing wrong with our water," Reed said of Williams’ tests last week. Reed said that he had received phone calls about chlorine problems from people who said their water was "red like blood," a description that Reed denied.
Alderman David Whitsell interjected, to murmurs of agreement from many in the meeting’s audience, that a red color in the water indicated too much chlorine.
"Every so often we flush water out and let it run," the mayor continued. "Other than that anyone who is drinking our water; it is safe to drink."
"Except for our chlorine," Whitsell said.
At the mayor’s invitation, Water Management representatives Robert Andrews and Bobby Brown addressed the meeting and described the steps needed to properly distribute chlorine in the town’s water supply.
Water Management was hired last month by Crenshaw aldermen to monitor the town’s water supply. The company serves 26 water systems in the Delta, Andrews said, as certified water operator. Certified water operators are required by state health department regulations for every water distribution system. Crenshaw has been without a certified water operator since July when a town employee who was also a certified water operator resigned. The town has met difficulty complying with monthly testing requirements since the resignation.
During February residents using the water noticed problems that they believed stemmed from excess chlorine in the water supply, according to Linda Mayo, who said that dark clothing had faded and become spotty during washing. Several other residents voiced the same complaint and brought faded clothes to Tuesday night’s meeting.
In January, a Mississippi Department of Health inspection rated the town’s water system as .07 on a five-point scale. No water system in the county had previously scored lower than 2.33 during fiscal years 2004 through 2006 and Crenshaw had previously scored 4.0 on inspections for the three prior years. The inspection report stated that there was no trace of chlorine in the water sampled during the January 25 inspection.
Also, on January 2, town employee Larry Cotton was injured when he was exposed to chlorine gas, the report stated. Cotton was attempting to add chlorine to the town’s water supply at the time he was injured.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Andrews and Brown described their work during February in an attempt to bring uniform chlorine distribution to the town’s water supply, including the cleaning of filter screens near the ICS building and adjustment of rotation cycles among the town’s three pumps that draw water from the ground and push it into the town’s storage tank.
"We checked it; it was blood red," Andrews said, regarding one incident of a water user’s complaint which he investigated.
"Could we have order?", the mayor asked several times as Andrews’ remarks brought murmurs from the audience.
"This is the first system that we have encountered this problem," Andrews said. "You’ve just got to have time to get it adjusted."
The adjustment process will include flushing water lines through fire plugs and retesting for chlorine content, Andrews continued. He said that he and Brown "will be doing all the adjustment."
"The health department says that we cannot put enough chlorine in your system to harm you," Brown told the town officials and audience. "I don’t see how it can affect your clothing; if it’s enough to bleach your clothing I don’t see why it won’t bleach your hair," he added.
"The health department has said that it is biologically safe," Brown continued. "What we want is for it to taste good. "It’s a balancing act," Brown said of the amount and location for the addition of chlorine into the town’s water system.
"That’s shed more light on it than we’ve had in two years," Whitsell said, following the remarks by Andrews and Brown.
The Water Management representatives also said that they would monitor the water and sewer systems at least twice weekly and offered suggestions about sources for purchasing and handling chlorine.
The subject of water came up again near the meeting’s end when the mayor opened the floor for questions from the public.
"It’s the mayor and board of aldermen’s responsibility to make sure we have safe water," former mayor Oscar Barlow said while he distributed information about chlorine to town officials. Barlow said that elevated water levels in his home had caused a skin condition on his wife that required medical attention.
"The doctor advised our family to move out of our house until the chlorine is regulated; it’s got to be addressed," Barlow said.
Aldermen Milton Phipps was absent due to health reasons. Attending, in addition to the mayor and alderman Whitsell, were aldermen Keith Pride, Shirley Morgan and Alberta Bradley.