Since the Tennessee American Water Company water leak and outage that affected service to some 35,000 Chattanooga connections earlier this month, the company has been forthcoming with a scad of information.
— It has said how much it has spent ($92 million) on capital improvements to the system over the past five years.
— It has noted how carefully it monitors its system and considers what additional improvements can be made.
— It has said how closely it works with neighboring agencies and how they help each other when needed.
— It has intricately described the details of recent work that has been done to make the system perform better.
— And it has assured its customers they would not be receiving any compensation for the inconvenient outage.
But what it has not done is tell the public what happened to leave some people without water for up to three days.
Its officials haven't even bent the ears of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and whispered, "Hey, we're still working on the exact cause of why the whatchamacallit didn't stop the thingamajig, but we knew what happened from the moment it happened."
That way, both mayors could assure the public they had confidence the water company was on the case. But Berke said Thursday, two weeks after the water main break that caused the outage, "we need to know what happened, why it happened, and what they're doing to make sure it does not happen again."
He also said, perhaps in understatement, "that their communications with the public throughout this period have been inadequate."
We thought the company's announcement four days after water was restored that "no utility is able to guarantee uninterrupted service" and, as such, "we do not provide for billing adjustments or claims for customer reimbursement of expenses" was particularly galling.
That "no utility is able to guarantee uninterrupted service" is understandable. The public gets that. But Tennessee American acknowledged the outage was its largest in "recent history," and lifelong Chattanoogans said they had never seen the likes.
Too, a good portion of our city's economy today thrives on its tourist attractions, its downtown hotels and restaurants, and its public facilities. Water, more than any time in the past, is important to the central city.
We would have liked the company to make a gesture toward the trust the city and its affected residents have put into it by reducing their next bills a token 10%, or 25%, or whatever it could afford.
But Tennessee American's own announcement and a class action suit filed against it on behalf of local residents and businesses may have closed that door.
A pity. A little communication might have gone a long way.