The sudden departure of Lumberton’s only certified water system operator has left the town in a bind, according to a city official.
Ward 3 Alderman Jonathan Griffith said the city is trying to replace the departed supervisor.
“Our water operator has gotten another job, and we are in a situation where he wasn’t able to give us notice before he left,” he said last week after a news conference when Carlus Page was presented as police chief. “So, now (Public Works Director) Kennon Johnson, who was his apprentice, has to rush and get his certification. If not, then everything lapses and we have to have start everything over again.”
According to Bill Moody, Director of the Bureau of Public Water Supply at the Mississippi State Department of Health, a public water system by law has 180 days to find a new certified operator before fines or violations are issued. He said when this occurs with a system, they usually seek the services of an operator within the area on a temporary basis to assist with operations until a permanent solution can be found.
Griffith said water problems usually come as a surprise.
“Our most important resource is buried under the ground,” he said. “We don’t know it’s a problem until we see that it’s a problem.”
Griffith said he supported having enough people in place to handle situations when they arise.
“That’s why I say that we have to make sure we have someone in place who’s trained to make sure that if something happens, we have someone in place who is ready to fill in,” he said. “They would have to go and keep their certification up too, so if someone leaves or something happens, we would be prepared.”
Since July 1, 1987, all municipal and domestic community water systems must be operated by persons who are certified by the Bureau of Public Water Supply as qualified to operate such facilities, according to Mississippi State Department of Health regulations. Certifications shall be valid for three years from the date of issuance, unless suspended or revoked for cause.
In the event of temporary loss of an operator, notice shall be immediately given to the Bureau of Public Water Safety. “Continued operation of such system, without a certified operator, may proceed on an interim basis for a period not to exceed 180 days, except for good cause shown upon written petition to the Director or designated representative,” according to state regulations.
General qualifications for all certified waterworks operators call for one year of required working experience under the direct supervision of a certified waterworks operator who holds a valid certification. The requirement can be waived by the Bureau director.