LaFayette, Ala. (WRBL) – The Chambers County Detention Facility is beginning to release 19 nonviolent inmates amid a water crisis that’s causing significant problems inside the jail. 

On Thursday, Sheriff Jeff Nelson provided an update on the Detention Facility during the crisis. 

“The Facility, like every other building and home in Lafayette lost water pressure on Tuesday, March 28th at approximately 5:00 p.m. Since that time, facility staff has gone to great lengths to make sure inmates have an abundance of drinking water and to manually flush toilets. While these conditions are not ideal, we are maintaining sanitary conditions as well as we possibly can,” said Sheriff Nelson. 

Sheriff Nelson says on Thursday, March 30th, the decision was made to begin releasing non-violent offenders. The facility houses around 117 inmates.

The 19 inmates being released have been given an updated court date.

“To enable our staff to care for a smaller number of inmates more efficiently. There are many professionals working on this problem and we are confident they will restore water service as soon as possible,” said Sheriff Nelson.

Meanwhile, the city is declaring a State of Emergency after 11 inches of rain forced a massive breach and pipe failure at LaFayette’s water reservoir earlier in the week. 

The city is scrambling to make the repairs as three thousand residents, dozens of businesses, schools, and government facilities are without adequate water. Residents can pick up free cases of bottled water at the Chambers County Highway Department County government office located in LaFayette at 18107 US-431. 

LaFayette is purchasing water from Huguley, so some taps are flowing but the pressure is down, and a boil water notice is in effect. The city is urging residents to conserve the water they have and boil it for at least three minutes before consuming it.

When the lake overflowed it eroded Chambers County Road 48. The flooding wiped out the water main buried under the road, which carries water from the lake to the LaFayette water treatment facility, leaving the city without a way to pump water to homes.

The city has contracted with an outside firm to make repairs. However, the process is estimated to take days, a week, or two weeks, and the city cannot determine a timeline yet. 

Councilperson Michael Ellis stated, “It’s gonna take a lot of work, but I’m glad nobody was hurt or killed.” However, emotions are high, and residents are concerned about how long the situation will last. 

The repairs are significant and estimated to require 20,000 cubic yards of dirt or roughly 1,000 truckloads of dirt.

The City of LaFayette is urging residents to stay informed and follow boil water advisories until further notice.