A two-fold, near-perfect-storm occurrence forced Winchester Utilities to shut down its water system on April 8, leaving production idle for about six hours, according to General Manager George Powell.
Powell explained the circumstances to the City Council in his quarterly report on April 12.
He said the city’s water supply comes from Tims Ford Lake, and chemicals are injected into it to get sediment to settle, decreasing turbidity and allowing the water to be filtered to potable levels.
Powell said a chemical injector failed along with its backup, and the area had simultaneously been hit by heavy rain on April 7 that made the lake’s water extra-muddy, further compounding the problem.
He said that under normal circumstances, the plant could have handled the problem and been able to filter the water without having to be shut down.
Powell said the circumstances led to opening a valve at a storage supply at Winchester Municipal Airport, and another valve was opened to tie in with Decherd’s system so that the neighboring city could aid in supplying water to Winchester.
He explained that the extra muddy water and the chemical-injector failure meant that the water treatment plant could not backwash its filters.
Powell said the filters needed to be cleaned to where they could properly process the water, and that could not be accomplished until more clean water was added to the system.
“We were definitely in a crisis mode,” Powell said. “It truly shows how vulnerable the water supply is.”
He said personnel from the state of Tennessee and the chemical-injector company came to the city’s aid to correct the problem.
Powell said the utility has also taken preventative measures to ensure that a similar situation doesn’t occur in the future.
Mayor Terry Harrell provided his assessment.
“How do you prepare for this?” he asked. “When it went wrong, you reached out to get help and took care of it. I appreciate that.”