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MISINFORMATION ALERT 1-16-13 LMS

Lack of communication and an abundance of misinformation related to a water line repair on January 10 caused many Salmon residents much undue stress according to Salmon City Mayor Leo Marshall.

At the January 16 meeting of the Salmon City Council Marshall explained what did and didnít happen as crews went to work on Roosevelt Street replacing a gasket in a three quarter inch service line that runs from the 20 inch water main to a residentís water meter. He said in order to make the repair the water in the main line had to be shut off for about half an hour and an announcement to that effect was broadcast on KSRA. A later announcement asked people to open taps and let the water run to help flush away sediment that was disturbed when water rushed back into the line after the repair was completed.

City Administrator George Ambrose said it is rare that the city needs to turn off the 20 inch main line to do service repairs because smaller mains can usually be isolated when service line repairs are necessary.

Marshall said at no time during the repair was any foreign material allowed to enter the line but the disruption of in-line sediments did color the water in homes on that line when water service was restored. From that incident grew the unsubstantiated and untrue stories of a broken water main line and contamination of the cityís water.

No one on the City Council had been apprised of the situation so when a reporter from the Post Register began calling for comments the councilmen contacted were caught by surprise and without up-to-the-minute information, which fed the speculation contained in three subsequent Post Register articles. Marshall said because of the incorrect information printed in the Idaho Falls newspaper, local people were rushing to the hospital thinking they had ingested contaminated water.

At the Wednesday night meeting some of the council members voiced frustration over not being informed of the situation and the discomfort of having no information to give constituents who came to them with questions. Marshall acknowledged missteps all the way through the incident and said the lesson learned is a need for a better communications system among city staff, between city departments and with city residents. He said he and City Administrator George Ambrose have started a to-do list towards setting up a working communications system plan consisting of a designated spokesperson, radio station alerts, emails among staff and council members and making information available on all local web sites. They are being assisted by Karen Talmadge who had gone to the effort of compiling a letter filled with suggested emergency communication procedures. Ambrose said he has spoken with the Post Register editor who apologized for the misinformation and said he would print a retraction.

Mayor Marshall will be the designated contact spokesperson for the city and a draft step by step manual on proper communication procedures will be brought before the council for further discussion and recommendations.


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