GERMANTOWN, Tenn. — Germantown residents will get their first look at a report about the city’s response to an unprecedented diesel spill into the city water supply back in July.
James Lewellen, a former Collierville town administrator, spent the last two and half months going over the Germantown water crisis and measuring how the city handled things when hundreds of gallons of diesel seeped into the city drinking water supply.
Residents were the first to notice something was wrong, and they were the first to complain about the lack of communications from city hall.
“There was just a sense of distrust with the communications that we were getting. They were few and far between. They were confusing. They were contradictory. We just were not getting answers,” said resident Alyse Masserano.
According to the report, communications was one of the top things Lewellen honed in on in the report.
After interviewing residents, he laid out some things the city needed to do, including understanding how to communicate with a wide range of people with empathy and constant feedback. He also said that communication needs to be honest and open by providing as much information as possible, and the city should have explained what they knew and didn’t know and how they were working to find out.
Lewellen acknowledged the water spill was something no one could have expected and called it a “black swan” event that had never happened, and included a series of unfortunate events from severe storms to a failed generator to faulty fuel shutoff.
But he recommended that the city recognize gaps and pivot and support other departments in a crisis with backup plans, saying there must be citywide training for future emergencies. Lewellen also recommended that the city keep updated contacts so they can receive help when an emergency arises.
Part of the report also calls for more communication personnel in a crisis and recruiting more public information specialists.
Germantown’s mayor said Lewellen’s report is critical step toward identifying opportunities for improvement.
The report will be presented during a board meeting at Germantown City Hall Monday at 6 p.m.