EMA directors to teach “Lessons Learned from Lawrence and Morgan County Water Crisis”

Can you imagine the panic if you suddenly heard the tap water in your home was unsafe for your family to use?

Thousands of families in Morgan and Lawrence Counties know all too well what that's like, they lived it last year.

Thursday, the directors of Emergency Management Agencies all across the state are going to hear the details.

The governor's annual Emergency Preparedness Conference, going on this week in Prattville, is a chance for EMA Directors from all across the state to learn from each other.

On the agenda for Thursday is a session called "Lessons Learned from Lawrence and Morgan County Water Crisis." Eddie Hicks, is the director of the Morgan County EMA, and one of the presenters.

What did we learn from that situation?

"Well, that particular situation is different from so many of the other emergencies that we deal with because we couldn't get any federal help or anything because it was not a declared disaster," explained Hicks.

"I recommend all our customers, do not drink our water," The only declaration came from Don Sims, the manager of the West Morgan/East Lawrence Water Authority in a news conference in June of last year.

He was responding to new standards from the Environmental Protection Agency that lowered the safe levels of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. And his system did not meet those standards.

"It was no notice of what was going on so we had no opportunity to do anything to lessen the effects from what the board said," said Hicks

They were caught off guard. "We did, and it took us awhile to get going. We did get a lot of support from a lot of different organizations so it was really teamwork to come in and try to solve this situation," said Hicks.

"You know, had they came to the EMA's and local officials and we'd been involved in the initial process, we could have found a way to already have things ready and in place," explained Johnny Cantrell with the Lawrence County EMA.

But there was no advance notice. So Thursday, Hicks and Cantrell will share with the group how they and so many others scrambled to get drinking water to several thousand families.

A member of the West Morgan/East Lawrence Water Authority's Board of Directors tried to introduce a resolution to have Don Sims fired for his handling of the water crisis.

The measure failed.

Sources said the resolution could come up again after the Morgan County Commission installed a new member to the Board of Directors.