Chapel Hill, Carrboro declare state of emergency over water shortage

UPDATE: Orange County officials say water is now safe after crisis

CARRBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Orange Sewer and Water Authority customers in the Carrboro-Chapel Hill community are being asked to not use water due to a water main break and low tank levels, officials said Friday.

You can receive updates on the water emergency by texting OWASAWATER to 888777.

Orange County officials said a rupture in a 12-inch water main near Dobbins Drive in Chapel Hill Friday morning is exacerbating the supply issues for OWASA customers. Officials won’t have test results for water safety for at least 24 hours.

“Two most important points are do not drink the water. Do not use it for personal hygiene and do not use it under any circumstance,” said Orange County Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger.

UPDATE: Orange County officials say water is now safe after crisis

Even if a customer has water flowing in their home – do not use it, officials said.

Answering a question on Twitter, Orange Water and Sewer Authority said Friday evening that they expected the do not use order to be in place for 24 to 48 more hours, which would mean it would be lifted Saturday or Sunday evening.

“It was a fairly large water main, 12-inch,” said Ed Kerrin, executive director of OWASA. “And we estimate that was lost somewhere between one and one-and-a-half million gallons of water.”

UPDATE: Orange County officials say water is now safe after crisis

Orange County is receiving around 6 million gallons of water a day from Durham but not enough to cover loss.

An incident at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant resulted in an accidental overflow of fluoride during the water treatment process. OWASA started receiving City of Durham water on Thursday afternoon, the agency said.

All restaurants and hotels served by OWASA have been ordered to close by Bridger.

Harris Teeter began distributing free water in Chapel Hill and Carrboro starting at 9 p.m. Friday.

They will distribute water as long as supplies last. Shoppers can receive gallon or three-liter water jugs with a limit three per person.

Distribution locations include:

  • Harris Teeter locations at University Place – 2110 S Estes Drive
  • Chapel Hill North – 1800 Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard
  • Meadowmont Village – 116 W Barbee Chapel Road
  • Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro – 310 N Greensboro Street

Distribution centers at the following locations were set to open at 10 a.m. Saturday:

  • Town of Chapel Hill’s Southern Community Park – 1000 Sumac Road
  • Hargraves Community Center – 216 N Roberson Street
  • McDougal Elementary School — 890 Old Fayetteville Road
  • Carrboro High School — 201 Rock Haven Road

Friday night, Jennifer Elliott of Chapel Hill got her ration of water at the Harris Teeter on University place.

“We went to two places earlier, called the other Harris Teeter earlier and they were out,” she said.

A Harris Teeter employee hands out free water at the store's University Place location. (Amy Cutler | CBS North Carolina)
A Harris Teeter employee hands out free water at the store’s University Place location. (Amy Cutler | CBS North Carolina)

“When we have situations where the water is unsafe to use, the Health Department, by state law, must close all businesses – food, lodging, restaurants,” said Bridger.

The Orange Health Department said to avoid boiling water and only use bottled water – including for flushing toilets, washing hands, and cooking.

UNC men’s basketball game against Notre Dame scheduled for Saturday as been moved to Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum. The university’s gymnastics meet scheduled for Friday night has been cancelled. Men’s and women’s lacrosse will play at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh on Saturday, women at noon, men at 3 p.m. And a wrestling dual — the last home event of the season — set for Saturday has been moved to Northwood High School in Pittsboro at 7 p.m.

(OWASA) service map
OWASA service map (OWASA)

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle issued states of emergency for their towns.

UNC Hospitals and clinics are operating normally despite the water issue.

UNC Chapel Hill canceled classes Friday at 1 p.m. as students were warned to cease water usage. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools closed early as well.

“I would say it was a little bit of a frenzy, especially when it was announced classes were canceled,” said sophomore Keaton Eberly. “People all around campus were talking about it.”

“It was kind of pandemonium in the Pit,” said Nathan Dollar, a third-year Ph.D. student.

Campus authorities are urging students to go home for the weekend if possible, but for out-of-state students, that’s a tall order.

The agency said earlier Friday that they expected to continue to receive water from the City of Durham for a few days because of the incident at Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant on Thursday.

The water flow through the connections between Durham and OWASA has not been sufficient enough to fill the OWASA tanks to their normal levels. Because of that, customers are being asked to only use their water for essential purposes like showering and drinking.

The City of Durham and the Town of Hillsborough released statements both confirming their water is safe.

The agency said they are working to restore the impacted water treatment plant to normal operation as soon as they can.

The water main break will have an impact on the restoration.

Workers running a pipe across Davie Road at Jones Ferry Road will also mean that drivers won’t be able to get from Jones Ferry Road to Davie Road or from Davie Road to Jones Ferry Road. The closure is expected to last until about noon Sunday.

For more information, visit www.owasa.org.

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