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Winter Aftermath Updates: Report Leaks, Potholes

Caleb Suggs/WKNO

Pothole Report

City of Memphis crews are now shifting focus to filling potholes that were left in the wake of last week's winter storms. They're asking residents to call 311 to report any. The head of public works for the city, Robert Knecht, says 16 crews will be tackling the broken road infrastructure, double the number that work on the issue during some seasons.  Typically, crews can respond to a notice within 3-5 days , but Knecht says that may be extended to 5-10 days because of the high volume anticipated.  

MLGW Update

Tens of millions of gallons of water are apparently still leaking out of Memphis' water system and causing pressure to remain dangerously low. Officials say broken and frozen pipes that have thawed out in the last few days are now gushing. MLGW president and CEO J.T. Young says data from smart meters can help pinpoint certain leaks.

"We're able to tell in many cases where that water flow is well above what we would normally see," he says.

But many building don't have smart meters, especially older ones, meaning that some major ruptures have yet to be discovered. The utility is urging property owners to inspect buildings, especially ones that are unoccupied. 

Officials are not sure how long it will take to get enough wells back up to pumping capacity and enough leaks repaired to restore water pressure to safe levels. The boiled water advisory continues until further notice. No pathogens have been found in the water so far, but then again, the water is not being tested. 

"You don't do testing until you are able to get that pressure back up substantially," said Nick Newman, Vice President of Operations. "And that's where you start your testing process."

Only after pressure gets back up to 20 pounds per square inch can the system be flushed out and then water samples will be sent to the state for testing. 16 to 24 hours after that, Memphis may once again be able to drink its water straight from its taps. 

From Sunday, Feb. 21

"Until further notice," reads MLGW's latest -- Sunday, Feb. 21 --  advisory to boil water before drinking it. The utility says the precautionary measure is necessary because of low water pressure due to frozen wells and broken water mains. Stagnant or slow moving water may breed pathogens, though none has yet been detected. 

As frozen pipes begin to thaw and spew water, the utility is asking residents to help identify repairs. Call 528-4465 to report water coming out of the ground. Homeowners should also keep a close eye on exposed spigots or irrigation systems as the weather warms.

The utility has also asked homeowners to conserve water through noon on Monday to help stabilize water pressure. 

On Sunday, Shelby County Schools posted to Facebook and Twitter that students will be doing independent or "asynchronous" learning Monday through Friday this week. The boiled water notice prompted the state's largest school district to close schools and office buildings, where teachers and staff have been teaching virtual classes. 

Students will be given assignments by teachers who will be checking attendance, though they will not be supervised by instructors. 

From Saturday, Feb. 20

As the snow and ice begin to melt, MLGW officials report “steady progress” on restoring water pressure to homes.

“We still have a critical patient, but the patient is moving in the right direction,” said MLGW president and CEO J.T. Young. “But there’s still a lot to do to get that patient stable.”

On Saturday afternoon, the public utility said that 73 percent of its wells are now operational, though 36 are still out of service due to last week’s freezing temperatures.

Crews have repaired a total of 53 broken water mains, with more breaks likely to be discovered in the next few days as frozen mains thaw.

As of Friday, 2,295 homes and businesses had their water cut off at the meter due to leaks or frozen pipes.

Until water pressure has been restored, the utility’s boiled water advisory remains in place as a precaution. Due to the water pressure changes, residents may also temporarily see brown-colored water coming from taps.

Nick Newman, Vice President of Engineering and Operations, says that naturally occurring iron buildups in the pipes are being disturbed and flushed through the system. Residents should run the faucet until the water is clear.

MLGW officials reiterate that though no pathogens have been detected in the water, the risk increases any time water settles or stagnates as a result of low pressure. After the appropriate PSI has been restored, it will take 18 to 24 additional hours to run tests ensuring water safety.

Until then, residents should boil water used for drinking or consumption. City water is still safe for handwashing and bathing.

Residents are also asked to curtail water usage through noon on Monday in order to improve water pressure citywide. Avoid using washing machines, dishwashers or taking long showers.

Officials say they are preparing a map of water main break locations. The utility will have an update on Sunday.  


The City of Memphis will distribute cases of bottled water (one case per car) at the following locations at 10 a.m. Sunday.

New Raleigh Civic Center – 3384 Austin Peay

Bert Ferguson Community Center – 8505 Trinity

Hickory Hill Community Center – 3910 Ridgeway

Fire Station 22 – 2690 Lamar

Pink Palace – 3050 Central

Ruth Tate Senior Center – 1620 Marjorie

Hollywood Community Center – 1560 N. Hollywood

Lewis Senior Center – 1188 N. Parkway

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher has covered Memphis news, arts, culture and politics for more than 20 years in print and on the radio. He is currently WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.