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EMA, state focused on Lawrence Water

Today starts Day 6 for customers of Lawrence Water Corporation to be without water. And for the second time in a week those customers came to the Lawrence County Commission to get help for a water system some say is too old to function any longer.

“This equipment is out of date,” Bruce Johnson, a customer, told the commission at its Thursday meeting. “The system is literally broke.”

Emergency Management Agency director Mike Boster started fielding calls the afternoon of Feb. 20 that households were out of water. By 5:59 p.m. the enormity of the problem became apparent with Boster contacting the state EMA.

At first the water loss was attributed to flooded pumps and the wait to dry them out.

But by Saturday Boster was in the first of what has turned out to be a week of conference calls with the state, getting experts down to troubleshoot and finding water to distribute to the approximately 800 customers in need.

“We had to identify what the problem was with the system,” Boster said. “And we reached out to a bunch of different partners. There were so many variables to turning the water on.”

Dried out pumps were still unable to fill the tanks because of massive leaks, estimated at 70 percent of the lines.

“There were a lot of unknowns,” Boster said. “It is not obvious where they are under a foot of snow.”

On Monday 17 pallets of bottled water were delivered at the water company headquarters to be distributed with another 10 pallets on Tuesday. Each pallet had 84 cases of bottles.

By Thursday morning there were 14 pallets left.

Boster also had to identify the homebound and seniors unable to get out to pick up the bottles so volunteers could deliver house by house. Water was also provided to those with livestock.

Water will continue to be available as long as the emergency remains, the director said.

“(Fixing the situation) will take a big influx of money,” Johnson said. “This is not a little water break like in Russell or Ashland. Next week something can happen and it could be worse.”