Local News

'Whoosh!' Town Loses 50,000 Gallons of Water

Posted December 22, 2007 6:57 p.m. EST
Updated December 23, 2007 3:06 p.m. EST

— The town of Middlesex lost about half of the supply in its water tower after a tractor-trailer knocked over a fire hydrant while trying to turn around on Saturday.

All repairs were completed by 2 a.m. Sunday, and water service and pressure were restored to all residents by Sunday morning, Middlesex Mayor Lu Harvey Lewis Jr. said.

Tractor-trailer driver Donnell Williams, 49, was charged with driving without a license, driving with expired tags and a movement violation, said Sgt. Steve Glover of the Middlesex Police Department.

Pitt County's Nelson Trucking Company will be responsible for a new fire hydrant, Glover said.

Town officials estimated that about 50,000 gallons, or half the tower's supply, emptied out. Officials originally thought the tower had been completely emptied.

The water tower represents only a portion of the town's entire water supply. Middlesex gets its water from three wells, two of which were being pumped Saturday night to fill the water tank to capacity.

The accident happened on East Hanes Avenue in Middlesex, which is in Nash County.

Crews worked to tear out the hydrant and replace the water valves. For a town that only has a water storage capacity of 100,000 gallons, losing half of that was a very big deal.

“When I saw that water, I said, ‘Oh Lord, we ain’t gonna have no water tonight,’” said resident Marjorie Yates.

Yates watched as the tractor trailer tried to turn around in her front yard and backed into the fire hydrant.

“Well, all the water went whoosh!” she said.

Water started leaking, and the town's pressure started dropping. The race was on to save what water remained.

“It was leaking significantly when we arrived on the scene,” Lewis said. “So, getting the public works people in and getting the valves cut off was priority one.”

The mayor said crews acted fast, but the town still lost a lot of water. A good amount of it flowed straight into Yates' yard.

“We got a little swimming pool out there,” she said.

In a town of 850 people, word of the leak got around fast.

“In a small community, when something like that happens, people start calling wanting to know what’s wrong,” Lewis said.

Losing the water in the middle of the drought did not help matters, he said.