Local News

Water-Main Breaks Make Big News In Small Town

Posted May 13, 2004 7:18 a.m. EDT

— An old water system has caused Pittsboro major problems.

Twice this week, a broken water main has brought many businesses to a standstill.

In this small Chatham County town, a water main break is big news. But when it happens twice in two days, it's the kind of excitement most folks could do without.

"This is the most publicity we've had in a long time," resident Susan Worsley said.

Thursday, parts of downtown were without water for several hours after the latest break, which sent hundreds of gallons of water flowing right through the heart of town.

For business owner Shorty Cash, the water represented money flowing down the drain.

When the water main broke on Tuesday, Cash had to shut the Scoreboard Grill down. He had to do the same thing again Thursday.

"People aren't coming in, so we can't sell anything," Cash said. "If they go somewhere else, that's money we miss."

The water in Pittsboro was shut off at 2 p.m. Thursday. It did not come back on until after 6 p.m.

As happened Tuesday after the water came back that day, Pittsboro was again put under a 24-hour "boil-water" advisory. The samples should be complete Friday at 8 p.m., and the town then will advise whether consumers can partake without boiling.

Both breaks occurred in a 50-year-old cast-iron pipe system, parts of which are corroded and cracking.

The cast-iron part of the line runs hundreds of feet up and down Hillsboro Street. But people say there's a problem with asking the town to just replace the line.

"You have traffic-control problems," Town Manager David Hughes said. "You have existing utilities in the way. It'll be extremely disruptive."

Hughes also said it would be expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Nevertheless, business owners said they can not afford for the town to not replace the system.

"Why does this affect us to the point where the whole town is discombobulated?" said Pam Cash Roper, an owner of the Scoreboard Grill.

Hughes said the town cannot afford to replace the system. But given everything that has happened this week, it may be time to explore all options on how to deal with the old system.

Cash Roper's attitude is to just roll with the punches.

"I just have these visions of people walking in here with muddy shoes," she said. "I say: 'Go for it. I'll take your business, muddy shoes and all.'"