Cameron water woes prompt conservation order

CAMERON — City Council issued a mandatory water conservation order Monday for all customers in Cameron.

Mayor Betty Scott said council first declared a state of emergency during its regular meeting Monday evening. The declaration must be signed by Tom Hart, director of Marshall County’s emergency services, and then forwarded to the state and county commission.

Water issues have plagued the city for the past two weeks, as its reservoir is running low due to a lack of rainfall, said Mayor Betty Scott. A waterline break at 4 a.m. Monday pushed the already low levels over the edge, causing service to be shut off, schools to be closed and the reservoir to drop even further.

Students at Cameron Elementary and Cameron High schools will be out the rest of the week, though two of those days — Thursday and Friday — are due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Scott said the line that runs along Main Street is very old, and that is why the break occurred. Several other waterline breaks had previously been reported over the weekend, but have been repaired.

She noted 1998 was the last year Cameron was forced to declare a water emergency. Residents are being asked to indefinitely suspend any unnecessary use of water. For example, people should not wash their cars at home or run full loads of laundry or full dishwasher loads.

She noted most already have done a good job conserving water. During the previous voluntary conservation order, the local nursing home resorted to using styrofoam cups and bottled water, she said.

If the situation doesn’t improve, Scott said the Public Service District could be tapped, but that still would only provide water for half the city. The state’s season to provide water buffalos, which are large, mobile tanks of water, also ended in October, she noted.

In 1998, a local grocery company provided a truck load of bottled water to residents, which was distributed by the fire department, Scott said.

“I want to thank them for their patience,” Scott said of the residents. “We will get through this.”

Over the past year, City Council has worked to replace many of the old waterlines in the city, where several breaks have already occurred. Scott said the city recently spent $2.2 million to replace some of the old lines, but the line that broke Monday will not be replaced due to funding issues.

She said although waterlines in five sections of the city have already been replaced, with a few more on the schedule, there simply is not enough money right now to replace all of the city’s lines. However, Scott added once the partial replacement job is complete in February, the city will apply for state grants to replace the rest of the lines in the city.

Testing for leaks is expected to occur within the next two days, Scott said.

“Right now, we just don’t have the money,” she said.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, crews were still working on the waterline. Scott said once water service is restored, the entire city will be under an indefinite boil order.