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Pipe Break Affects Water Supply, Schools in 4 Counties

Posted October 18, 2007

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— Franklin County declared a water shortage emergency Thursday, four counties came under a boil-water advisory and up to 40,000 water customers were affected after a water main break in Henderson.

The water shortage, which closed some schools Thursday, prompted more closings of public and private schools on Friday and a two-hour delayed opening in one case.

"It wasn't no joy ride. It was a disaster," Michael Jones, manager of Vanah's Main Street Diner in Henderson, said.

All customers on Franklin County's water system were given a mandatory order to immediately suspend non-essential water use, which included lawn irrigation, car washing or serving water in restaurants other than by request.

County customers were also asked to reduce consumption by 50 percent after the pipe break caused a loss of 1.5 million gallons. Henderson provides 1.6 million gallons per day of Franklin County's 2 million-gallon total daily consumption.

The state Division of Environmental Health imposed a 36-hour boil-water alert while water sources are restored. The alert affected Vance, Granville, Franklin and Warren counties in areas where people use municipal water. People should boil water for at least a minute before using it.

Water was running again for all but 100 customers in Henderson by Thursday afternoon, Frank Frazier, city director of engineering, said.

A 14-inch water main break occurred on Booth Street, emptying two 750,000-gallon tanks in an hour. Officials said the water line was laid in the 1950s. It is not yet known whether age was a factor in the pipe's rupture.

Vanah's Main Street Diner began boiling water in bulk Thursday.

“We were trying to do everything we could just to get drinks out,” said Jones. “We had customers sitting in the dining room. We could’t get them tea. We could’t get them drinks.”

Firefighters felt the pinch, too, when a call of a suspicious house fire hit just two streets away from the break. With no water pressure,  the fire hydrant across the street was no use. Firefighters said they luckily had enough water stored in the tanks of fire trucks to put out the fire.

Multiple school closings were blamed on the water shortage.

Franklin County Schools said six of its schools will be closed Friday – Youngsville Elementary, Royal Elementary, Bunn Elementary, Cedar Creek Middle, Bunn Middle and Bunn High School. The closing applied to all students and staff at those schools.

Warren County Schools let its students go at 2 p.m. Thursday. All Warren County public schools will be closed Friday. The Haliwa-Saponi  Tribal School also will be closed.

The water woes were also felt in Oxford, Stem and Stovall, which get their water from Henderson.

Nearly 15,000 Oxford residents were urged to conserve water, and businesses were asked to close early. Revlon, Oxford's largest plant, shut down several production lines.

The lack of water also forced an early end to a school field trip in Oxford. Students from Stovall-Shaw Elementary School were scheduled to see the mayor and tour other sites, but they had to return because classes were being dismissed early due to low water pressure.

After-school care programs were canceled.

Vance County schools were also closed Thursday, and six schools in Oxford – West Oxford Elementary, CG Cradle Elementary, Mary Potter Intermediate, North Granville Middle, JF Webb High and JF Webb Health and Life Science – closed early.

Vance County Schools will operate on a two-hour delay Friday.


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  • Run_Forrest_Run Oct 18, 2007

    I remember those days - when having a small baby. My nails couldn't grow because they were so soft - always being in water.

    We're in a world of hurt these days with the water situation.

  • jenstog Oct 18, 2007

    I feel so bad but since we've had our second child I use water all day long it seems- loads and loads of laundry- dishwasher sometimes twice a day... more baths for more kids... a lot.

  • juwannaknow Oct 18, 2007

    I work in Oxford and couldn't even get a drink of water today at lunch...Most restaurants were closed and the one I went to could only serve tea and that's b/c of having to boil it. I just hope we get some needed rain ASAP!!

  • sfate61 Oct 18, 2007

    I lived in Henderson for 30+ years. I can tell you, Henderson people are close and will not take some of the comments that are on this. This is a very serious sitution, losing that much water, when water is much needed right now.There were a lot of business that had to close up on count of this,you close your business,you don't make the money.You go "CMH". Tell them like it is!!!!

  • GodBless Oct 18, 2007

    You Go "Areadriver". It absolutely amazes me how callous people are. Is it more important for your lawn to look good for others to see or for you to have water to drink, cook and bathe? This situation is not funny! (ncsupam) It is very serious! AND bty - I live in Henderson and am proud of it. To everyone that thinks their town is so perfect - well, it's obviously not - you are in it!

  • areadriver Oct 18, 2007

    I agree with GoldsboroWolf, enough with the builder realtor bashing. Everyone is so quick to comment on growth, they have forgotten that we are in a DROUGHT!. It's not something that happens all the time. This is the exception, not the norm. Without the growth and the jobs, the triangle would still be a pine forest and all of these people complaining would be living elsewhere. We need to be responsible with our water usage. If your lawn needs water every day, you should have planted something else. I refuse to water my landscape. If it can't survive on its own, I don't need it. When you water every day your plants grow shallow roots, because there's no incentive to grow deep. If you water a little bit and then 3 or 4 days later, you force your plants and grass to grow deeper down in search of water. People just need to use their heads. Some of us more than others.

  • timeforcookies Oct 18, 2007

    I'm not sure how much blame can be laid on large dogs in this situation. My large dog waters her lawn only with recycled water and keeps her showering to an absolute minimum. Kudos to your cats for their conservation efforts, though.

  • GoldsboroWolf 98 Oct 18, 2007

    "They are still building houses causing more drought problems." If there were not a demand, houses would not be built. Many industries contribute detrimentally to society in some way, they just cover it up well. The tech industry makes our lives more sedentary, leading to more obsesity and health problems. The bio-tech industry designs new drugs and owns the FDA so they can be pushed by the doctor drug pushers. How many in the triangle are employed by these 2 industries alone? Just sick of the builder/realtor bashing.

  • Here kitty kitty Oct 18, 2007

    By the way I'm surprised after Knighdale's water main break last week that more wasn't asked as far as conservation.

  • Here kitty kitty Oct 18, 2007

    Conserve water...shower together. It can be a lot of fun :):):)