Company details why English Mtn. residents have gone weeks without water

Phyllis Jarrett went 15 days without water on English Mountain before having service restored.
Phyllis Jarrett went 15 days without water on English Mountain before having service restored.
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 10:48 PM EST
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SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) - After months of complaints from English Mountain residents about a lack of water, the state has opened an investigation into why it’s been happening.

Tennessee’s Comptroller Office officially requested that all three Utility Management Review Board members be replaced after claiming they failed to control excessive water loss and to seek opportunities to replace or upgrade failing infrastructure.

According to the report, nearly 63% of the water under the control of the East Sevier County Utility District last year was lost, which means it spilled out onto the mountain and didn’t go to people’s homes.

That water loss rate is drastically higher than 2017′s rate of 48%.

“Pressure-reducing valves weren’t in operation,” said Craig Miller, Division Manager with Alliance Water Resources. “Ultimately, it’s the job of the people at the utility.”

He added that employees at ESCUD told him that a review board member instructed staff not to touch the pressure valves, which Miller believes is the primary reason why so much water loss occurred.

That board member in question, Roy Ivey, has since resigned as the other two board members are still active. Moving forward, the state said the remaining two would participate in a contested case proceeding, where a judge will review the case and make a decision.

While Miller plans to fix leaks to retain more water, those that call English Mountain home are growing concerned.

“I mean, we need help immediately,” said Phyllis Jarett, who lives nearby.

Until Sunday, Jarrett spent 15 days at her home without water after an “act of God” incident took place with the land and knocked out water for many customers, according to Miller.

It’s an issue the Jarrett family claims they’ve been dealing with for years. Sometimes they’ll go months without any issues, but there’s always a fear that the water won’t be working one morning.

“We have to have water to drink, to cook, wash dishes with, to take baths,” said Jarrett.

Because of the fear of not having water in a home on the mountain, Jarrett keeps anywhere from 40 to 50 gallons of water at all times.

While water loss rates were high for Miller’s standards last year, he said that last month alone, the water loss rate was down to 35% but didn’t have a yearly average available.

According to state officials, a timeline for the contested hearing for the remaining two board members has not yet been announced.