Students at Georgia College & State University awoke to a surprise last Monday after schools were cancelled throughout Baldwin County due to a shutdown in the water pumps throughout the city.
“The university was closed on Monday, November 20th due to a problem with
the city of Milledgeville’s water treatment plant,” explained Max Allen, Executive Assistant to the President and director of University Relations.
According to GC&SU Director of Public Safety Ken Vance, closing the school was an effort to ensure the health of GC&SU students.
“School was cancelled because it was felt by the administrative staff that since the water situation was so dangerously low that for health and safety reasons it was best to close in order to allow the water tanks to re-fill,” said Vance. “Closing would cut usage and allow this process to be completed much quicker.”
A short within the city’s electrical system caused the water pumps to shut down on Sunday. Rather than risk the health of students, Milledgeville schools were closed.
“Initially the electrical main that provides electricity to run the water pumps became inoperative due to a pretty massive short, and the external generator that is supposed to kick in whenever there is a loss of primary power malfunctioned as well,” explained Vance. “The result was that the City of Milledgeville could not pump water into the tanks to replenish them, so normal water usage just drained the storage tanks to a very low level before the electrical problem was fixed and the pumps could begin replenishing the tanks.”
According to Allen, the university didn’t have a direct effect in fixing the city’s water situation.
“The city of Milledgeville’s water department fixed the problem with the water,” said Allen. “Our only involvement was in conserving water by not opening the university on Nov 20. The city indicated our decision to close would allow them an opportunity to build up their water reserves which was extremely low due to an electrical problem in the water treatment plant.”
Vance said that even though the university had no direct effect on fixing the situation, the fact that the school was not in operation was enough.
“Even with the pumps operating at full capacity it takes several hours to fill up the tanks, hence a decision was maid by the administration to close the university for that Monday,” said Vance. “The Baldwin County School System, GMC, and John Milledge Academy also closed. These closing greatly enhanced the recovery time for the water system.”
Various water fountains on campus we adorned with do not drink sign due to the possible contamination of the water. Both Allen and Vance said that no major problems occurred on campus involving the water situation and students.
“We don’t believe there were any major problems,” said Allen. “A few faculty, staff, and students may have arrived expecting the university to be open for business at 8:00, but quickly found out that we were closed. The decision to close was made very early in the morning (around 6:30am) jointly by Vice Presidents (Harry) Keim and (Anne) Gormly. President (Rosemary) DePaolo was out of town at a business meeting. After I received word from Vice President Keim, I immediately notified the media and public safety who helped us in getting the word out as soon as possible. We also posted messages on our website and sent email messages to the official and student lists.”
“There were no reports to Public Safety about any problems brought about
by drinking the water,” added Vance.
According to Allen, closing the school was the right decision.
“I think the decision to close was absolutely necessary,” said Allen. “Closing school is something that is very rare. In this case, the city was facing a major water problem and needed our help, and the help of the entire Baldwin County area, in conserving water. Since the university community is a large operation, we felt closing for the day would help the situation.”
The situation was fix by mid Monday afternoon and all area schools were open for business on Tuesday.