Boil water alert for west Jefferson County: ‘Went to church and had to do a sponge bath’

By Greg Garrison

Johnny and Celeste Howze picked up bottled water on Monday, May 13, at the Adamsville Walmart. Their running water was
off or not at full strength at their Forestdale home from Friday through Monday, they said.
(Photo by Greg Garrison/

A major water main pipe break that left much of northwest Jefferson County without running water has been repaired but a boil water alert remained in effect until Tuesday at 9 a.m., said Michael Johnson, general manager of the Birmingham Water Works Board.

“When it gets to the point that the test results meet Alabama Department of Environmental Management regulations, that is when we can lift the boil water alert,” Johnson said on Monday.

Warm day with more 70s on the way!

That should happen within 24 to 36 hours, he said on Monday afternoon.

For residents, it has been a pain in the faucet.

“I’ll tell you when it’s rough,” said Johnny Howze of Forestdale. “Went to church yesterday and had to do a sponge bath.”

It’s been three days with little to no running water, he said.

“The pressure at first was zero, then it came out to about 50 percent,” Howze said. “Last night it was 90 to 100 percent.”

Howze said he’s under doctor’s orders to drink plenty of water. “It’s been kind of frustrating,” he said. “My physician said I have to drink three bottles of water every morning.”

Since a water main break was discovered at 6 a.m. Friday morning on a 16-inch pipe near the West Filtration plant off Highway 78 in Pratt City, crews have been working to repair it. While the leak is now fixed and water should be running for all customers, clearing the alert takes time, Johnson explained.

“At the same time we’re restoring that water, we also flush the system to get the discolored water, debris flushed,” he said. “When the system is charged, we draw samples for testing. Flushing, sampling, testing. The water’s back on. We have to test it to make sure we can say that it’s safe to drink.”

Bottled water is being distributed to customers in the parking lot of the Adamsville Walmart until 7 tonight and resumes at 8 a.m. Tuesday until noon, continuing each day until the boil water alert is lifted, Johnson said.

“This helps a lot when you have bottled water,” said Chuck Calhoun of Graysville, who picked up bottled water on Monday afternoon. He said his running water was never completely off.

“It was just really slow for a long time,” said Calhoun.

He heeded warnings not to drink it without boiling, he said. “I’ve been using bottled water,” he said.

“The worst part is when we woke up (Friday) and couldn’t flush the toilet,” said Celeste Howze. “I left home Friday. I just couldn’t deal with it.”