A DeKalb County water main that seemed fixed overnight broke again Saturday and threatened to disrupt the entire county’s water supply.
The county government declared just before 3 p.m. that all residents in the county of 700,000-plus people should boil their tapwater. And some were expected to go without water again starting as early as 10 p.m. Saturday night, when crews were to attempt another repair.
DeKalb County spokesman Burke Brennan said the lowest pressure reduction would occur around midnight.
“At this time, no valves will be fully closed for this event,” Brennan said in an email, “in order to minimize the impact to DeKalb County water customers. … Normal water pressure will be restored as quickly as possible once the line is fixed.”
The saga began Thursday when a contractor broke through a 48-inch pipe near the intersection of Henderson Mill and Evans roads in Tucker. Repairs began, but a patch that looked hopeful broke when full water pressure was restored.
On Saturday afternoon, even those with full water were at pains to figure out whether it was safe. A pipe break leads to drops in water pressure, and slow-flowing water can breed bacteria. Tests so far had come back clean, Brennan said, but pressure dropped three times in 36 hours and the county needed to be “extra careful.”
The Courtyard by Marriott hotel near the Decatur town square was not taking reservations or answering its public phones Saturday afternoon.
In back offices the square’s booming high-end restaurant scene was in tumult, as water that was unquestioned one minute was under advisory the next. Proprietors just before the Saturday dinner rush clamored for word from the health department and tried to choose whether to close.
At Cakes and Ale the hostess said the restaurant would still open for dinner as far as she knew. At Iberian Pig, manager Leigh Ann Miller was waiting for a callback from the health department and word from the owners.
“We want to make sure [that] we’re not jeopardizing anyone’s health, and also make sure ethically staying open is the right decision,” Miller said, as staff pored through health regulations. Manually boiling water was possible, she said, but “for a restaurant with a lot of volume it would be a logistical nightmare,” though something they’d consider if it could be completed without risk to customers. “We’re all in meetings right now,” she said.
If there were any plan to close she said the restaurant would alert customers including on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Facts flew fast and furious. DeKalb County at one point tweeted that the boil-water advisory was just for Decatur, Avondale Estates, Tucker, Druid Hills and Stone Mountain. Those areas are indeed targeted, but Brennan said the main serves the entire county so the advisory is county-wide.
Brennan wrote in an e-mail that it could be a week before workers finished every last detail including “fixing the leak, filling the hole, planting grass and restoring the power box foundations.” However, he added, “hopefully the issue of restoring a continuous uninterrupted water supply will be remedied much sooner than that.”
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