May 2, 2022
In observance of national Drinking Water Week May 1-7, Starkville Utilities is highlighting the work its water professionals do every day to make sure safe, high-quality drinking water is always available at customers’ taps, whenever they need it.
“Ensuring a reliable supply of safe, healthy drinking water is a vital service that our employees work around-the-clock to provide for customers,” said Edward Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “We’re also investing in infrastructure upgrades to keep our water treatment and delivery systems in top condition and to support Starkville’s continuing growth.”
Sponsored by the American Water Works Association, Drinking Water Week raises awareness of health and lifespan improvements over the past century that can be linked to advancements in water quality. Providing safe drinking water is considered one of the most important public health achievements of the 20th century that has ensured access to potable water for millions of Americans.
Last year, Starkville Utilities processed and delivered more than 964 million gallons of safe drinking water to homes and businesses throughout the community. Before water makes it to a customer’s tap, it has completed a complex process of filtration and treatment to ensure it meets local, state and federal quality standards.
“Serving the public is a responsibility that we take seriously,” said Sean Johnston, chief water operator. “Starkville Utilities operates a world-class water treatment system operated by licensed employees who work hard to maintain an excellent quality record for our water supply. We take pride in making sure Starkville’s water is safe to drink.”
Starkville’s water supply is pumped from several wells fed by the Gordo Aquifer, an underground body of groundwater that spans northeast Mississippi. Each well pumps an average of 1,100 to 1,200 gallons per minute to Starkville’s water treatment plant, where it undergoes a series of steps to transform it into safe, healthy drinking water.
Steps include adjusting the water’s pH level and adding chlorine and fluoride, as well as potassium manganate, a compound that prevents iron buildup in pipes. Employees take daily readings to ensure pH and additives are within correct ranges, and every month they send water samples to the Mississippi Department of Health to test for bacteria.
Employees monitor water system operations using supervisory control and data acquisition technology, or SCADA, which also detects leaks so they can be found and repaired faster—a capability that reduces service interruptions and saves money by preventing water losses.
After water is filtered and treated, it’s pumped to six water towers throughout Starkville, each of which holds 500,000 gallons of water delivered to customers naturally by the force of gravity.
Twice a week, employees backwash filters and flush water lines in the treatment plant to cleanse equipment and prevent iron buildup. Two times a year, they conduct a proactive flushing program, during which all points in Starkville’s water system are flushed to remove iron buildup and eliminate discoloration, or “brown” water, from service pipes.
Starkville Utilities also flushes lines on as as-needed basis when customers report water discoloration, which is usually caused by water line breaks.
“We’ve established a superior record for drinking water safety that we plan to uphold,” Kemp said. “It requires us to be accessible and responsive to customers whenever they bring issues to our attention. Communicating more with customers is a basic tenet of the Renew Principle to improve service in all aspects of our operations and support Starkville’s current and future growth.”
Starkville Utilities is a public utility serving 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville, Mississippi as well as Mississippi State University. Its mission is to supply safe, reliable, and cost-effective electric and water service of superior quality and value that improves the lives of its customers.