Ponchatoula finishes Phase One of water system flushing

The City of Ponchatoula has been thoroughly flushing its water lines.

An August 9 report in The Times by Kathryn Martin detailed what residents could expect during the purge of city water lines.

The flushing began at 8 a.m., August 14 in the southwest section of the city, where some areas are known as “worst offending” with brown water. The city had been divided into three sections and the Southwest section encompasses from Highway 22 to Southwest Railroad Avenue to Tower Road to the Service Road.

It was anticipated by the city that “during the process, no one should be without water but may experience low water pressure and possibly short-duration discoloration.”

Citizens were advised in that Times report:

“If discoloration does occur, residents are advised to run their garden hoses. This is not a matter of simply opening a hydrant and draining pipes. As explained in the past, any time a hydrant is open or a pipe breaks, it allows water flow from any direction, stirring natural sediment, making the matter worse.

 Add to that, the Federal government decision requiring more chemicals be added, the result that more manganese has formed, causing discolored water in certain areas of the city.

As previously reported in these pages, since the first reports of brown water, the city has sought help from experts in the field, applying all measures suggested. Over the past two years, the city’s entire water system has been studied and every pipe and valve and their varying sizes verified and mapped to determine which valves can be opened in an orderly fashion to bring about a unidirectional flow.

The study is named the Ponchatoula Water Distribution System Flushing Program and along with the many maps, each of the three sections of the city has its own detailed large book detailing the project and step-by-step work, custom developed for its phase. The plan is based on the proper function of each valve and because this is the first time for such a massive undertaking, only the opening of each valve will tell what to expect.

Bill Travis and Thorton Bellamy and Muso had first analyzed the water and found the manganese problem. That led to the discovery that despite regular flushing, there had never been a unidirectional flushing probably in some fifty years, adding to the normal sediment buildup. Bill Travis has attended numerous national conferences on manganese and brown water this year and says the problem is nationwide, stating that while unidirectional flushing is the “best way to do it,” there will probably always be traces of brown water.

Working with Owen-White Utility Engineers in Baton Rouge, the city has access to its expertise and computer software. This company oversees not only Baton Rouge but multiple municipalities.

Sewerage and Water Department Director, David Opdenhoff, highly certified in his field, says the flushing process had to be very slow, a matter of opening a specified valve at a time until a hydrant can be opened, working the water system from south to north. All his city workers will be on hand as well as representatives from the companies who have put the project together, as the flushing project continues.

Opdenhoff anticipates beginning Section Two in Spring of 2019 and Section Three in Fall of 2019.