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County officials: Boil water advisory could last for days, possibly through Saturday

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County officials: Boil water advisory could last for days, possibly through Saturday

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Water pressure has stabilized in DeKalb County, but the problems caused by a 48 inch water main break on Wednesday morning are far from over.

County officials updated the public about the break that occurred on Buford Highway. It shut down local schools and some local businesses on Wednesday. While pressure was eventually restored, a boil water advisory will continue for several days, according to acting Watershed Management Director Reggie Wells.

“Chances are by afternoon Saturday we should have an idea what we’re looking at with lifting the boil water advisory,” he told the media Wednesday evening.

During the boil water advisory, the county is advising residents to boil all water for one minute before using it for drinking, cooking or preparing baby food.

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Wells is standing in for the previous Watershed director Scott Towler, who resigned Monday after accusing his superiors of illegal behavior.

Wells said the county had isolated the break, which damaged 60 feet of pipe. During the press conference, he said the county thinks the break may have been caused by a storm sewer that collapsed.

“We won’t know until we can get the hole completely de-watered and all utilities exposed,” he said.

In a separate announcement on Wednesday evening, CEO Michael Thurmond said the county would investigate the cause.

“We will determine whether the break was the result of a systematic failure, improper maintenance, wear and tear or physical tampering,” he said. “I am committed to making sure our infrastructure is protected and maintained in a manner that will ensure quality service to the citizens of DeKalb County.”

Wells said the 48 inch main is one of four large transmission mains that serve the whole county, which is why its failure caused problems county-wide.

“The plan is, within hopefully the next 48 hours, to have this line completely tied in and put water back in it,” Wells said. “And at that time … water to the homes, to the businesses should begin to normalize. However the boil water advisory won’t be lifted ultimately until sample results return.”

Susan Loeffler, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agencies, said the county has been coordinating with the local school boards throughout the crisis.

“I’m very happy to report that our schools are going back in session tomorrow,” she said. “As a matter of fact, Emory University opened back up at 5 p.m. this evening. So our hospitals have returned to a normalized pressure where they can continue to do whatever it is they need to do inside the hospital, care for their patients, care for our citizens and they are not at any substandard capabilities at this point.”

She said the county is continuing to monitor the situation.

Loeffler noted that most county departments and school systems and hospitals typically have a three day water supply on hand. She said schools will have to take water fountains and ice machines out of service until the boil water advisory is lifted.

“If that becomes an issue, we do have three water trailers that we can turn what we call non-potable water into potable water,” she said. “I’ve got three trailers that can do thousands of gallons in an hour and we actually put it into plastic water bags and we can hand out if necessary.”

She said she hoped the boil water advisory is lifted before that becomes necessary.

The city of Decatur was handing out clean water to residents until 11 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

“There is a two-gallon limit per adult and you will need to show your I.D. Please conserve your water,” the city’s press release said.

Editor’s note: Decaturish was unable to attend the county’s press conference Wednesday evening. This report was compiled by viewing a live video stream. 

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