Donaldsonville's James Breaux loads a second 35-bottle pack of water into his SUV, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 outside a Walmart in Donaldsonville, where a water outage in the city due to recent sub-freezing temperatures caused difficulties for many. His family of four had been without water since about 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning, he said.


Ascension Parish officials who run the city of Donaldsonville's water system said Friday that they are ready for subfreezing temperatures expected through Wednesday night.

During an extended cold snap earlier this month, officials with Parish Utilities of Ascension had to cut water service unexpectedly for at least seven hours to more than 3,200 customers in the city, including a hospital, nursing home and dialysis clinic.

The subfreezing temperatures led to line breaks and high water use that severely reduced water supplies. A boil water advisory tied to the loss of pressure wasn't lifted until Tuesday morning. 

Later, on the same day, city officials criticized the way that the parish handled the water outage and boil water advisory, the apparent lack of protocols for a crisis and the lack of communication with city, according to a city account of a City Council meeting published on Donaldsonville's website.

In the account from the Tuesday meeting, Mayor Leroy Sullivan and Councilman Lauthaught Delaney were paraphrased as saying they didn't find out about the outage until they realized the water was off in their own homes. Sullivan said he didn't realize the extent of the shutdown until he was called by a local plumber about the water being out at a nursing home, according to the account posted on the city's website.

"I felt like I was disrespected," Sullivan said, according to the city statement. "I'm the one people are bashing on Facebook." Sullivan could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The comments came before an expected meeting with parish officials, and, in the parish statement Friday, officials with Parish Utilities said they have "used the lessons learned from the recent cold spell to prepare." They say water towers in the system are filled and crews are on "full alert."

The National Weather Service said that an Arctic cold front is expected to send nighttime temperatures in the Baton Rouge area below freezing, starting on Friday. Nighttime temperatures Saturday through Wednesday will drop even lower, to the upper to mid-20's, with the exception of Monday when temperatures will be just above freezing. 

William Daniel, the parish infrastructure director, acknowledged a day after the shutdown on Jan. 3 that the parish did not have standard operating procedures for extreme cold weather and, as a result, did not build up water supplies beyond normal levels ahead of the cold weather. He added the cold weather exposed vulnerabilities in the system's distribution lines.   

The parish bought the city water system, previously owned for decades by the private utility Peoples Water, in September 2016 for $5.9 million. Officials have been on a learning curve to understand the aging system's operations, capabilities and long-term capital needs. 

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.