City leaders say Hamilton water crisis is easing

Boil water notice in Hamilton could be lifted by Tuesday morning
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 10:11 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2023 at 5:41 PM CDT
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HAMILTON, Ala. (WBRC) - New developments in the Hamilton water crisis Monday as city leaders say while they are waiting for water tests to clear, they also believe they have turned a corner in the crisis.

But Hamilton officials strongly recommend residents continue to boil their water just to be on the safe side. They are confident that recommendation will be lifted along with the the state of emergency by Tuesday morning, August 29.

The Buttahatchee River looked no different Monday than it did on Friday; muddy, brown, and mixed with sediments from a broken farm pond dam six miles upstream.

“Much improved from Friday,” said a relieved Mayor Bob Page.

But there is one big difference, according to Mayor Page. Even though the river doesn’t look any cleaner than a few days ago, the gunk in the water has moved down far enough where the city’s purification system can begin turning it into clean water. The turning point came around 5 p.m. Friday.

“About 5 o’clock, we found out the water was clean enough to start our purification plant up,” Page said.

Two hours later Friday night, the filtering system was at full throttle, reducing the emergency threat somewhat, but not entirely to the point where the mayor could lift the boil water recommendation.

That’s why cases of bottled water were handed out over the weekend.

“They shouldn’t drink water without boiling it. We pulled samples earlier today and transported them to Tuscaloosa and we’ll have results in the morning,” Mayor Page said.

“You can take a bath now,” said Gail McCarley.

For Gail McCarley, this is not only good news but one of relief. No more trips to get bottled water, which McCarley did over the weekend in neighboring Mississippi.

“We went to Fulton, Mississippi, at the Wal-Mart and got us some water there,” said McCarley.

McCarley’s grandson Dylan Lucas says his biggest disappointment was he couldn’t kayak in the Buttahatchee, a pastime he does just about every weekend.

“Normally you could stand up here and see the rocks or you could stand in our yard and see the rocks from the banks, so it’s pretty nasty still,” said Lucas.

Page said this has become a teachable moment for the city of Hamilton.

“We thought we were more bullet proof than we are, but we are going to look for a backup system and to help people to never be out of water again,” said Page.

Much like the Buttachatchee, the water crisis in Hamilton is ebbing away - much to the relief of thousands like Gail McCarley and Dyan Lucas.

“Yes, I am glad,” said Lucas.

ADEM sent the owner of the broken dam a three-page letter and in summary, the agency instructed the owner to comply with permit regulations and submit a remedial plan to fix it. Meantime, Hamilton city leaders must now grapple the fact the city likely lost around $25,000 in weekend sales tax revenues because several businesses had to close due to the water crisis.

Even with all the water issues, the local hospital is experiencing no disruptions.

“Fortunately, upon being notified of the water emergency, North Mississippi Medical Center-Hamilton initiated a Code Green, which is part of our Emergency Operations Plan. This plan provides policies and procedures for disasters and outlines alternate sources of resources needed to mitigate during such crises. Through both internal and external resources, the facility was able to safely maintain operations without disruption. We appreciate everyone who assisted in any way.”

Robin Mixon, Hospital Administrator

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