Local News

Carrboro water main break cancels classes, disrupts UNC hospitals

Posted November 5, 2018 7:38 a.m. EST
Updated November 5, 2018 9:26 p.m. EST

— A major water main break in Carrboro caused the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to cancel classes Monday and forced UNC Hospitals to reroute trauma patients as crews scrambled to find and fix the rupture.

Carrboro-Chapel Hill schools dismissing early after water main break

Authorities said Monday night that they had repaired the lead and water storage levels were near-normal. Residents are still advised to boil water until further notice. Officials said they are testing the water and should have results determining if it is safe to drink by Tuesday afternoon.

Officials at UNC-Chapel Hill also announced that class cancellations would extend through 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Video showed water gushing from the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, or OWASA, treatment plant onto Jones Ferry Road. The water had been flowing out of the severed line since 6:30 a.m. Monday.

Police blocked off the road in front of the plant, at 400 Jones Ferry Road, while crews worked to patch the line.

"We're making more drinking water to try and make up what's being lost through the break," Ed Kerwin, executive director of the water utility, said, adding that drinking water from Durham and Hillsborough would also be brought in."

All schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district were dismissed by 1 p.m., and after school activities were canceled.

"Due to a water main break, we have buildings with reduced or no water pressure," district spokesman Jeff Nash said.

UNC-Chapel Hill canceled classes and told non-mandatory staff to leave campus. Late Monday afternoon, UNC-Chapel Hill announced that classes will be cancelled through 5 p.m. Tuesday.

All non-mandatory operations at the university were suspended and only mandatory employees were ordered to report to or remain at work

At UNC Hospitals, trauma patients were directed to other area hospitals, no transfer patients were being accepted, elective surgeries were suspended, and visitors were discouraged from stopping by.

Bottled water was brought in for staff and patients, and portable hand-washing stations were being set up throughout the hospitals. Staffers also were advised to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to conserve as much water as possible for patients.

UNC Health Care said Monday night that they will resume normal operation on Tuesday.

Carrboro-Chapel Hill schools dismissing early after water main break

Dean Graham, assistant manager at Armadillo Grill on East Main Street said business was slower than usual Monday evening because of the water main break.

"It's been a pain trying to keep everything in order back there without having running water," he said. "No fountain drinks, just bottled water. Customers can't even get complimentary water, they have to get bottled water."

Crews were at the water treatment plant since 6:30 a.m. trying to contain the leak. According to Ed Kerwin, the executive director of OWASA, the central water main in front of the facility burst, and the plant was losing water at a rapid rate.

Kerwin urged Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents to use water on an essential basis until the problem is corrected.

Hillsborough opened a connection to OWASA and began piping water through its system to OWASA customers.

"While the town has enough water that mandatory conservation is not expected, customers are encouraged to voluntarily conserve water," Hillsborough officials said in a statement.

Carrboro-Chapel Hill schools dismissing early after water main break

OWASA originally stated its water was safe to drink but later issued a boil advisory for local customers. The boil advisory doesn't affect customers on Hillsborough's water system.