V.A. and CDC office closed, but FBI et al just truck in emergency ‘port-o-potties’

Veterans Administration’s benefits office in Atlanta was closed Wednesday, due to the water main break which cut the water to most of DeKalb County.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Credit: Scott Olson

Combined ShapeCaption
Veterans Administration’s benefits office in Atlanta was closed Wednesday, due to the water main break which cut the water to most of DeKalb County. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Credit: Scott Olson

Credit: Scott Olson

The benefits office of the Veterans Administration is closed Wednesday, one more casualty of the huge water main break in DeKalb County.

The VA announcement did not say when the office would reopen.

But the impact of the water main break has washed through the county, sending consumers to the stores for bottled water, closing thousands of offices and shuttering many restaurants.

Those that were open had to make adjustments.

A restaurant without water can – as Waffle House did – revert to menus from the water shortage of years past, informing customers that they won’t be getting glasses of water before their meals.

But a restaurant without water also cannot wash dishes. So, the Flying Biscuit is serving customers on paper plates.

The restaurant is offering bottled beverages. And they continued to offer delivery and take-it-to-go options, as usual. Again, with bottled beverages only.

The break occurred around 4:30 a.m., flooding Buford Highway just north of I-285 in DeKalb County. Residents of the county have been advised to boil any tap water they use for drinking or food preparation.

Economists say the macro economy doesn’t much notice one day’s ups and downs. Until the impact goes on about a week, the data doesn’t show the impact of storms or other short-term disruptions.

Many offices – large and small -- were closed Wednesday, their employees asked to work from home. For instance, the five-person Decatur office of Compassion in World Farming closed.

Alsco, a Doraville company that cleans thousands of uniforms and linens every day, was forced to close the plant down about 10:30 a.m, after five hours of operations, according to one of the company's customer service representatives. As the water comes back on, the company will still need approval from its testers to make sure the water is suitable for use, he said.

The Jewish Community Center in Dunwoody closed at 11 a.m.

The county is also home to many large government organizations with high profiles, besides the VA.

For instance, the Centers for Disease Control, whose main campus is near Emory University. The center was closed Wednesday, according to spokeswoman Kathryn Harben.

At Century Center, just to the north of I-85, are offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Portable toilets were imported during the morning and placed in strategic locations outside some of the buildings.

By afternoon, Fish and Wildlife had closed, sending employees to work from home.

Just two days before the break, the county's director of Watershed Management charged top officials with illegal activity in a scathing two-page letter.

"I have no choice but to resign this position – despite significant impact to my life and my family," wrote Scott Towler on Monday to the county's deputy chief operating officer, Ted Rhinehart.

In the letter, he accused Rhinehart and the county CEO of urging him to make decisions that violate federal and state laws and leaving him out of meetings and decision-making once he resisted.

As for the hundreds of thousands of individuals affected, they either did without, left for other places or just made do.

Terri Thornton of Decatur, who owns Thornton Communications, said she was affected – but not in essential ways.

“Since I work from home the most important thing is: WE HAVE COFFEE!” she said.

“We had water already in filter pitchers and we're boiling more. I dug out the baby wipes (I usually use to wash the dogs' faces) to wash our hands. We have water bottles in the garage left from the last ice storm. We had melted ice in glasses from last night's dinner that didn't make it into the dishwasher so we poured that into the dogs' bowls. I probably have hand sanitizer somewhere but we haven't needed it yet.

“As they say in Harry Potter, ‘Mischief managed!’”

About the Author