Local News

Pipe Break Affects Water Supply, Schools in 4 Counties

Franklin County declared a water shortage emergency, and residents of four counties were advised to boil water after a water main break in Henderson. All Warren County schools and some Franklin County schools will be closed on Friday.

Posted Updated

HENDERSON, N.C. — 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.