Tuesday, August 23, 2016

MLGW Explains EPA Requirements For Sample Testing

In an effort to determine if municipal water systems have an effective corrosion control program for potable water, EPA requires that water samples from 50 homes be analyzed by MLGW for lead and copper once every three years. Twenty-five (25) are to be homes with lead water service lines/plumbing. The other 25 are to be copper service lines with lead solder. The list of 50 is to be picked from a larger group of about 100 addresses. The same list of about 100 addresses is to be used each time, every three years. The group of about 100 addresses is called the pool of sites.

Water service lines include the utility owned water line between the water main and the water meter, and the privately owned line between the water meter and the house. Some homes even have lead plumbing within the home.

The purpose of this exercise is to see how well our corrosion control system is working. We have a list of 112 addresses that was established in 1992 when the regulations took effect. 57 of those addresses are designated as lead services. The other 55 are copper.

EPA regulations suggest several methods for coming up with this list including plumbing inspector records, age of construction, etc. My staff is confident that our list was established in accordance with EPA regulations. Verification of pipe material at these addresses does not require digging the line up to verify. In fact the EPA regulations recommend meter readers do any physical inspection.

The easiest way to do a physical inspection is to look in the meter vault and see what type pipe is going in and out of the meter vault. This year we looked at all of the original 57 addresses designated as lead. Physical inspection, primarily looking in the water meter vault, verified that at least 32 were lead. This does not mean that ONLY 32 were lead. Many times the service line pipe material changes between the meter and the water main or between the meter and the house. So how do you determine if a water service line is made of lead if you cannot physically see lead?

EPA states that you can also confirm the presence of a lead service line by results from analysis of the water. Since 1992 a total of 50 of the 57 “lead” addresses have tested positive for the presence of lead. So we know there is a lead pipe somewhere between the water main and the faucet.  Usually the amount of lead found is less than the EPA action level. In fact as long as less than 10 percent of the samples contain less than 15 parts per billion(ppb) lead, then the water system meets EPA criteria.

So what happens if the analysis of the samples finds more than 10 percent exceed 15 ppb lead? Typically when this happens EPA may require the water utility to undertake an effort to identify which homes have lead water lines throughout the entire service area, Initiate a program to eliminate lead water lines or improve the corrosion control efforts.

In the case of MLGW we already have a great corrosion control program. In addition we are already actively performing physical inspections of water service lines on a mass basis in order to try to identify what water service lines are made of. Finally we are already actively replacing MLGW’s lead service lines and intend to budget more money for this effort next year so that we can replace the lead service lines at a faster pace.

MLGW estimates that out of 254,000 homes and businesses in our service area that about 25,000 have lead service lines. Most of these homes are within the Parkways or just outside the Parkways. MLGW has an interactive map that although not 100% accurate provides information regarding where lead service lines may be located. Our goal is to replace all of these lead service lines within the next ten years.

MLGW offers free testing of anyone’s drinking water. If a customer has measureable concentrations of lead in their water, then we provide tips on how they can minimize exposure to lead in their drinking water.

MLGW is confident that we are in compliance with the letter and spirit of the EPA regulations. Our water is in fact the best drinking water in the country. 

You can find more information in our Water Quality reports. The Lead Service Database can be found here.


Friday, August 19, 2016

MLGW issues bonds at record low interest rates

Once, again, Memphis Light, Gas and Water bonds have been recognized by the market as an excellent investment.

After a process of several months to develop and approve the sale of bonds, MLGW issued $110 million in bonds on Aug. 16 with record low interest rates of 2.459 percent for each of the electric and gas divisions and 2.322 percent for water.
“I haven’t gone all the way back in MLGW’s history,” said MLGW Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Secretary-Treasurer Dana Jeanes, “but I sincerely believe this is the lowest cost of debt we’ve ever had.”
By MLGW’s charter, each division within the utility is financially independent in regards to issuing credit. As a result, Standard & Poor's and Moody’s Investors Service rating agencies assessed each credit separately.
The electric division was rated AA+ by the S&P 500 and Aa2 by Moody’s. Gas received AA- and Aa1 ratings, respectively. Water was assessed by the S&P 500 as AAA credit — the agency’s highest rating — and Aa1 by Moody’s.
Since the gas division had not issued any bonds since 1984 the rating agencies rated gas division bonds similar to a new credit. Nevertheless, the market viewed the bonds favorably, resulting in an identical interest rate as the electric division.

Funds from the bond issuance will be used in support of MLGW’s capital investment budget.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Smart Talk: Smart meter project progress and the opt-out process

Since May, MLGW has been installing smart meters as part of a five-year modernization of its metering infrastructure. It is by far the largest improvement project in the Division’s 77-year history. The return on investment for the project will be reaped in five to seven years. Operational and personnel savings achieved (gained through attrition — MLGW has NEVER had a layoff) will result in greater efficiencies and lower costs. More than 20,000 new meters have been installed since late spring of 2016 (all three services — electric, gas and water — are being replaced, but most of the installations have been electric). The convenience of faster connection and reconnection; the security of keeping their gates locked and the empowerment of knowing exactly how much their utility service will be BEFORE the end of the month are some of the benefits eagerly anticipated by customers. Many residents are looking forward to the upgrade which will allow Shelby County residents to enjoy the technological advancements citizens in other Tennessee cities like Chattanooga now experience. However, if a customer chooses to decline a smart meter they can opt-out.

The opt-out process guidelines are broad and the process simple. When you receive the 30-day installation notice, call 820-7878 and request the paperwork. The customer of record signs and sends it back. Now, like all viable businesses, there are some reasonable exceptions so a few people don’t take advantage:

(1) If in the last 24 months a customer has been found guilty of diversion (utility theft) or had a routinely inaccessible meter. Routinely is defined as four consecutive
months where MLGW’s ability to read the meter has been obstructed, resulting in an estimated bill, which can be vastly different from actual usage.
(2) If an MLGW employee has been attacked by a dog on a customer’s property or if Memphis Police department has been called to protect our employee.
Understand that in either scenario, after 12 months the clock starts over and the customer would be eligible to opt-out if their account is without incident.

MLGW is committed to doing what is in the best interest of all its customers. Providing service improvements when they are available and affordable is an important part of that commitment.
Full scale implementation of smart meters is a prime example of how MLGW plans to offer enhanced service and payment options that are affordable and readily available in the marketplace.
To learn more about smart meters, go to mlgw.com/smartgrid.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hold that shovel, belay that backhoe!

Gardening, excavating, constructing or digging? Today, August 11 (8/11) is National 811 Day, a reminder that you should always call 811 before doing any digging in order to have your underground utilities marked and prevent hitting a gas or electric line. Don’t go BOOM!

811. It’s a number you should know by heart. National 811 Day – or National Call 811 Before You Dig Day – reminds the public that calling 811 before you or your contractor begin any project that involves digging helps prevent damage to underground utilities such as gas, electric, cable and water lines and keeps residents, neighbors and communities safe.

The leading cause of natural gas pipeline accidents – almost 60 percent – is damage from excavation or construction. Some consequences can include devastating gas pipeline explosions – leveling houses, damaging neighborhoods or businesses, causing injuries and even resulting in fatalities.

Many of us are eager and can’t wait to break ground to start outdoor projects such as building fences, planting trees, putting in a patio or building home additions. But do we know what’s under the ground where we plan to dig? Natural gas pipelines and other utility lines weave beneath the surface throughout our community. Major gas pipelines are marked with a yellow caution sign. But secondary lines aren’t as easily identifiable. So don’t risk hitting a gas line, disrupting neighborhood service, and facing potential fines and repair costs. Before you begin digging, remember to contact Tennessee One Call at 811 to request that a professional locating crew mark the underground utility lines on your property. The service is free, and it’s the law!

Also, don’t forget to allow 72 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) or three business days for your utility lines to be located and marked before you commence your project. You should be able to see the underground lines marked on your property with painted lines. If you don’t see them, call 811 again to check in on the status of your “locate.” You don’t want to start digging if your underground utilities haven’t been marked.

Stay safe! Don’t go BOOM! by hitting an underground gas line. That’s what National Call 811 Day is all about. The safety of you, your family and your community is at stake. Tell your friends and family; use social media or text to let them know to always call 811 before digging.

If the unthinkable happens and you or your contractor do hit or damage a utility or gas line in the process of excavation, you should immediately stop digging and call MLGW. Remember that natural gas smells like rotten eggs. If you smell this strong odor, you and other residents should evacuate the area right away and call MLGW’s emergency line (528-4465) and 911. Know what actions to take and what not to do in a gas emergency by going to MLGW’s website at mlgw.com or the direct link: www.mlgw.com/residential/naturalgasleak or www.mlgw.com/residential/811. And always call 811 before you dig!

National 811 Day is promoted by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), an association dedicated to ensuring public safety, environmental protection and the integrity of services by promoting effective damage prevention practices. More CGA information can be found at commongroundalliance.com.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

MLGW to promote National 811 Day

Encouraging customers to call Tennessee811 hotline before digging

Some numbers you know by heart. 811 should be one of them. National 811 Day happens on August 11 (8/11) and reminds the public that calling before you or your contractor start to dig prevents damage to underground utilities such as gas, electric and water lines and keeps residents safe. MLGW is promoting National 811 Day the week of August 11 to increase awareness of National 811 Day and Call 811 Before you Dig in Memphis and Shelby County.

When residents call 811, their underground utility lines will be located free of charge. Tennessee law requires that individuals give notice to the 811 center three business days before digging begins. This service is free, and all residents who intend to excavate or have contractors excavate are required to call.

Damage to utilities can occur during installation of a fence or mailbox, building a deck or additional room, and even gardening or planting trees. “We want residents of Shelby County to realize that underground utility lines can be disturbed or damaged by common home improvement projects,” said Jerry Collins Jr., MLGW President and CEO. “Hopefully our promotion of National 811 Day will increase awareness of the importance of calling 811 before you dig, as well as knowledge of natural gas safety.” Digging without calling can result in damage to underground utility lines, harm to residents, disruption of neighborhood service, and fines and repair costs for those responsible.

If residents hit or damage a utility line in the process of excavation, they should immediately stop digging and call MLGW. Remember that natural gas smells like rotten eggs. If residents smell this strong odor, they should evacuate the area right away and call MLGW’s emergency line (528-4465) and 911. MLGW reminds residents that the best way to avoid these dangerous situations is to always call 811 before you dig.

National 811 Day is promoted by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), an association dedicated to ensuring public safety, environmental protection and the integrity of services by promoting effective damage prevention practices. More information on Call 811 and natural gas safety can be found on MLGW’s website at mlgw.com or at commongroundalliance.com.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Temporary Lane Closure at I-240 at Shady Grove Road

MLGW will begin utility work on the Shady Grove Road bridge over I-240 on Sunday, August 7 at 7 a.m. This will result in the closure of all East-bound lanes on I-240 at Shady Grove Road for less than 30 minutes. After this portion of utility work is complete, East-bound traffic will resume.

At 8 a.m., work will continue which will close all West-Bound lanes on I-240 at Shady Grove Road and the on-ramp lane on Walnut Grove for less than 30 minutes. After this portion of utility work is complete, West-bound traffic will resume and general traffic will return to normal flow.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

MLGW Relaxes Deferred Billing Rules for Residential Customers

For the month of August, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is relaxing its deferred billing rules to further assist customers, with high bills, to avoid being disconnected.

To be eligible for the relaxed rules, the bill has to be at least $250; customers must pay 25 percent of the amount owed or $250, whichever is less. Payment can be made by cashier’s check, money order, cash or credit card.

If the resulting deferred billing payment exceeds $500 a month, deferred billing can be set up over a longer period, not to exceed nine months. The customer must have an updated/approved residential service agreement on file before receiving a deferred billing arrangement.

Eligible customers can bring two forms of identification and payment to one of MLGW’s five community centers: 245 South Main Street, 2935 Lamar Avenue, 1111 East Shelby Drive, 2424 Summer Avenue or, in Millington, 5131 Navy Road.

The relaxed rules are separate from MLGW’s weather-related moratorium policy, which is in effect whenever these conditions exist: (a) the forecast heat index will be 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above at any time during a 24-hour period; or (b) the forecast heat index will be 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above at any time in a 24-hour period for customers 60 years of ago or older, physically challenged, or customers certified as life-support dependent.
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