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UNC campus, businesses reopen after water crisis

Posted February 4
Updated February 5

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— After more than 24 hours under order not to use water for drinking, bathing, cleaning or cooking, customers of Orange Water and Sewer Authority got the all-clear Saturday afternoon.

Officials said OWASA’s water supply reached very low levels due to the temporary shutdown at the Jones Ferry Road water plant on Thursday because of an accidental overfeed of fluoride in the water treatment process and due to a separate, major water main break Friday in Chapel Hill.

On Saturday, Orange County Health Director Colleen Bridger said the water was safe to drink with the exception of The Apartments at Midtown 501, just north of the merger of East Franklin Street and Durham-Chapel Hill Road.

"OWASA tested samples from across the service area to ensure the water is safe for public consumption,” Bridger said. “All of the tests came back safe earlier this afternoon."

Restaurants and lodging businesses were able to reopen to serve the public Saturday at 2 p.m., but not before they lost out on Friday night and Saturday morning sales.

"A lot of them essentially missed out on a rent payment because of this," said restaurateur Mandie Brown, of Imbibe.

"I didn't know how long it was going to last."

One of Brown's first moves Saturday was to melt ice leftover from before the ban because that water had been deemed unsafe.

Gina Welch, a resident at The Apartments at Midtown 501, said she wasn't worried about the wait. The 250 residents there are under a boil water advisory and will be notified when the advisory is lifted.

"We have lots of bottled water, so we are good to go," she said.

"It's unfortunate, but I understand they have to do what they have to do to keep us safe," said Jonathan Fricke.

The uncertainty of the water shortage, which began Friday, prompted the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to postpone the men's basketball game against Notre Dame, scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m., until 1 p.m. Sunday. The game will be played at Greensboro Coliseum.

Competitions in several other intercollegiate sports were moved, rescheduled or canceled.

The university had resumed its operations by 10 a.m. on Sunday.

"We do apologize sincerely for the inconvenience," Kerwin said. "I know that's probably not a strong enough word, but we really appreciate peoples' understanding,"

2 Comments

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  • Bobby Lee Jimmy Billy Feb 4, 10:43 p.m.
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    It's time to flush those toilets!

  • Sick Ofhollywood Feb 4, 4:59 p.m.
    user avatar

    What exactly happened? A main pipe blows wide open, not just a crack? Were there not routine maintenance to expect the main trunks, which we know exists? Big question who is going to take responsibility for this expensive mess, and the loss of revenue to businesses? Let's start at the top, and clean house.