LaFayette declares state of emergency over water crisis

Published 4:26 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

LaFayette citizens are being asked to conserve water after Sunday and Monday’s thunderstorms resulted in the city’s water pump to fail.

LaFayette City Council members said Wednesday morning, during an emergency meeting, that the city engineer, council members and county engineer are working on a plan to provide water to citizens while they work to replace the water pump.

The city council said it planned to meet Wednesday afternoon to vote on issuing a local state of emergency for LaFayette. 

Email newsletter signup

City Engineer Allen Tucker of Harmon Engineering worked with the county engineer’s office to find soil to fill in the hole so the pipe can be replaced. Tucker said they are looking for contractors to begin the repair project because the county cannot handle the project in addition to the other road closures. 

“This is a large project, very large,” Tucker said. “We’re talking maybe as much as 20,000 cubic yards of dirt. That’s 1,000 truckloads.”

Water Plant Superintendent Ann Gleaton said during Sunday and Monday’s thunderstorms the pump that brings water into the city stopped working because the pipe was washed away during the storm. 

Approximately 3,000 citizens have been impacted by the burst pipe at LaFayette City Lake Dam, according to Gleaton.

LaFayette is currently purchasing water from Huguley Water. According to Gleaton, they are only receiving about half of the city’s usual supply. 

Huguley Water is providing 288,000 gallons of water per day to the city of LaFayette. General Manager Scott Windsor said Huguley can sustain the arrangement as long as their customers don’t face any major emergency of their own.

“We are asking the citizens to please don’t use excessive water,” Gleaton said during the meeting. “Don’t be washing your car or watering your lawn or garden.”

Katie Hill, director of training and apprenticeship coordinator for the Alabama Water Association, said the city is working with state EMA to distribute water bottles for citizens at the Chambers County Highway Department. 

“This is unprecedented,” Hill said. “This is not something we see everyday.”

Representative Randy Price said that he has been in contact with the state EMA director and the governor’s office to make them aware of the situation. 

“The city of LaFayette and also the county and their engineering have been working very diligently in the last couple of days in putting together a plan,” Price said.

Price said the city is focused on declaring a local state of emergency so that they can begin the process of putting a plan in action. At this time, Price said it has not been determined what resources the state can provide.

“Once we see exactly where we are from a scope of work, where we are from the resources that the city will have available to them, then we will seek what role will be made as far as the state is concerned,” he said. 

Hill told the Valley Times-News that they are pursuing any and all state grants and resources that are available under emergency situations.

Several citizens spoke out at the meeting.

“That’s kind of not fair. It’s actually unhealthy — unsanitary, unhealthy,” said citizen Jennifer Tewinkle at the meeting. “How do you bathe and how do you flush toilets with bottled water? … There’s a lot of people in this town that can’t afford bottled water.”

Tewinkle spoke up during the meeting to ask the council for more answers. Many local business owners who were present at the meeting couldn’t open their shops on Wednesday.

“I can’t work,” said Magnolia on Main owner Ashley Knowles to the VTN. “How do you color hair if you can’t rinse it?”

Knowles came back to town Tuesday to find that her shop had no water supply. Not only did she have to reschedule her client appointments, but she is looking for a temporary place to work. 

“They should have already gotten the state involved because this is a disaster emergency,” Knowles said. “I do think they are realizing they need to do that, and they are in the process of doing that, but I think that should have been done immediately.”

Gimme Some Sugar owner Jennifer Graves said she didn’t know about the water emergency until Tuesday night. 

“I fully trust LaFayette, but I wish we could’ve known this before six o’clock last night if they knew that this was something that could happen,” Graves said.

Luckily, she was able to open a mobile coffee trailer rather than her storefront in downtown. Their operations will be very limited. Graves said the business will still have bills and vendors to answer to. 

“If we do not get to operate fully functional soon, we’ll fall behind,” Graves said. “It’s devastating — even if it’s just a week.”

“Natural disasters happen, and there’s no putting blame on any one person or city or government,” Graves said. “I know that LaFayette is going to work on this as hard as they can. In the meantime, if there’s anything that my husband, Justin, and I at Gimme Some Sugar can do, we want to do it.”