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Water levels drop causing problems Sunday morning

COUNCILMAN James H. (Jimmy) Douglas was named Mayor Pro Tem Monday night.

The city of Cairo’s water system was drained nearly dry Sunday morning when a malfunctioning alert system failed and pumps used to pump water into the system were not automatically activated.
At the same time the city was suffering from low water pressure and volume, Cairo firemen were being dispatched to a kitchen fire in the northeast section. Luckily, the fire was quickly extinguished using a dry chemical rather than water.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton briefed the city council on the problem Monday night.
According to Addleton, the new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that was purchased in July, 2010, and installed in September, 2010, mysteriously had monitoring levels set to zero for both the high and low levels to be maintained at the ground water storage tank at the #2 water plant in northeast Cairo.
The SCADA system monitors the water levels and activates high service pumps to maintain set levels in the city’s elevated storage tanks and ground water storage tanks.
The city manager says the high level is supposed to be 22 feet and the low at 19 feet. City officials cannot explain how the levels were switched to zero and are calling in MR Systems, the vendor that sold and installed the system, to investigate.
The city paid MR Systems $38,382 for the system. Similar problems have plagued the city water system in the past and as a result, the city replaced its old SCADA system that was originally installed in the late 1990s.
Addleton says city personnel have determined that the levels were switched Saturday afternoon.
In addition to the inexplicable change to the levels settings, Addleton says the SCADA system failed to alert the nightman at the energy services office when the groundwater tank dropped to zero.
“The alarms went off as they should, but the system lost contact with the telephone line. MR Systems has rebooted the system and communications have now been reestablished,” Addleton told city councilmen Monday night.
The city manager has requested that the system be programmed to make a test call to the energy service complex every day so that the city can ensure there is not a communications problem with the system.
“We have asked MR Systems to meet with us to discuss what happened. We want to find out why this happened and what must be done to prevent it in the future,” the city manager said.
Addleton says the levels could have been reset by a computer glitch or by someone logging into the system and changing them. The city manager does not believe anyone logged into the system and adjusted the settings.
“They should be able to tell you if someone logged in and from what location,” Mayor Pro Tem James H. (Jimmy) Douglas said.
“I believe it was some sort of glitch. We will be asking for more safeguards. The levels can’t just change on its own,” Addleton said.
“If we had had a major fire it would have been more than a tough situation,” Mayor Richard VanLandingham said.
Councilman Ernest Cloud pointed out that city firefighters were dispatched to a fire on Bondvilla Drive at the time of the water outage.
Cairo Fire Chief Jim Fielding confirmed that city firefighters were dispatched to a kitchen fire Sunday at 9:57 a.m. at 1097 Bondvilla Drive N.E.
According to the fire chief, the firemen were able to extinguish the fire using a dry chemical and did not have to hook into the city’s water system. However, the chief says the trucks carry sufficient water to combat a kitchen or one room fire.
“We were lucky,” Mayor Pro Tem Douglas said Monday night.
The water issue Sunday is another reason, according to Addleton, the city needs another water plant. A project to construct another water plant on Cairo Municipal Airport property is currently in the design phase.
The city manager says a test well will be drilled within the next 90 days and in the next fiscal year construction of the plant should get underway.
All of the city’s water is produced by three wells located at the #2 water plant on MacIvor Drive N.E. City officials hope that drilling additional wells and having a second water plant at the airport will lessen the city’s dependence on the #2 water plant.

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