Mineral Wells Public Service District officials are right to be considering improvements to their system to notifying customers of boil water advisories and other alerts.
As customers of West Virginia American Water learned at the beginning of this year, time is a lot more than money when it comes to getting information about the quality of the water coming out of the tap. And while officials in Mineral Wells were "more than reasonably sure there was no harmful bacteria in the water," a recent attempt to inform customers they should boil their water after a water line break missed the mark.
Officials followed procedure. This newspaper and other local media outlets received the notice and informed the public as soon as we could. But "unfortunately, those ways do not work like it used to," said Chuck Brodie, a Windsor Estates customer who spoke to the PSD board. An automated phone system used by the district is only in operation during certain hours, and, in this case, by the time the system had called everyone affected, it would have been time to lift the advisory.
So, many customers heard about the boil advisory second hand, or a day or two late. Those who do not listen to the radio, do not have a newspaper subscription and watch television via a satellite provider were left out.
PSD officials are reportedly setting up a website on which they will also be able to inform customers of advisories in the system. In today's in-pocket world, however, that might not be enough. The Mineral Wells PSD should consider, in addition to reaching customers via newspaper, radio, television and website, exploring options such as sending alerts via text message or email and utilizing social media. The agency should also look into expanding its automated phone system to cover all hours. No possibility should go uninvestigated.
After proper testing had been finished by the heath department, it was determined the water in the Mineral Wells PSD was safe to use, and the advisory was lifted. And, again, PSD officials properly followed their current set of procedures for alerting the public.
But its customers receive their information in an ever changing and growing number of ways. The PSD must do its best to keep up in order to keep those customers safe.