DeKalb County ends boil water advisory two days after water main break

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Video via Doraville Police Department, from officers who first responded to DeKalb water main break.

It was early Wednesday morning when the 911 call came in to the Doraville Police Department: a resident thinking there was some sort of problem with a local fire hydrant.

When officers arrived at the scene near Buford Highway around 2:30 a.m., though, they found an already sizable pool of water that was violently bubbling across a parking lot. Video they shot showed it was growing, and quickly. They immediately knew it was something bigger than a faulty hydrant.

But it would be another 2 1/2 hours or so before the true issue, a broken four-foot water main, was identified by DeKalb County officials, and many more hours before county CEO Michael Thurmond's office got to push send on the victorious email it distributed Friday morning.

It would be Friday afternoon before the county lifted the boil water advisory, which had inconvenienced some 700,000 residents and countless businesses. But the actual repairs were done — some 53 1/2 hours after the original 911 call, yet a full 24 hours ahead of the previously stated schedule.

“The hard work and dedication of acting Director Reginald Wells and more than 50 men and women with the DeKalb County Watershed Department and contractors has paid off,” Thurmond wrote in the news release, which was sent around 8 a.m. “Working around the clock since Wednesday, these public servants got the job done.”

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This is the site of a water main break that flooded Buford Highway just north of I-285 Wednesday and compromised water for hundreds of thousands of DeKalb County residents. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

This is the site of a water main break that flooded Buford Highway just north of I-285 Wednesday and compromised water for hundreds of thousands of DeKalb County residents. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

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This is the site of a water main break that flooded Buford Highway just north of I-285 Wednesday and compromised water for hundreds of thousands of DeKalb County residents. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Officials had said Thursday they wanted to have the pipe repaired by Saturday morning. They were able to get the job done more quickly thanks, in part, to a neighborly assist.

Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority Director Glenn Page told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his agency provided DeKalb with three 20-foot sections of replacement pipe that it happened to have in inventory. It was picked up around noon Thursday.

Page said such an arrangement (which will eventually involve DeKalb paying for the pipes, which Page said can run between $5,000 and $10,000 apiece) was not unusual. Materials are expensive to keep in stock and can often take days to obtain if they have to be ordered.

DeKalb spokesman Andrew Cauthen said his county had had one piece of pipe on-hand and got another from a company in Alabama.

“Those of us that are in the water industry,” Page said, “we know each other and we all understand the criticality of our operations.”

School was in session in DeKalb on Friday and businesses continued to reopen. But residents were still feeling the impact of Wednesday’s break, which disrupted a multitude of services.

The boil water advisory was a necessary precaution due to contamination risks presented by the main break. It presented particular problems for restaurants and schools.

Many eateries closed for parts or all of Wednesday and Thursday before finding a way to open shop, in some capacity, by Friday. The boil advisory complicated not only drinking water and cooking but the cleaning process.

"Health Inspector came by today to make sure we were following the 'rules' and not endangering the public," The Imperial, a pub in Decatur, wrote on Facebook on Friday afternoon. "For the most part we were. Except for the part where they did not agree with our dishwashing vendor. Hence, paper goods."

DeKalb County schools relied again Friday on the goodness of the community to get by, water-wise.

The school system said it had received more than 75,000 bottles of water from local businesses, church groups and residents. It bought another 125,000 bottles of water.

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