State of emergency in Chapel Hill over water shortage

Posted February 06, 2017

OWASA officials asked customers Friday to stop using its water after a water main break Friday morning on Dobbins Drive in northeast Chapel Hill. In light of these results, Orange County Health Department is rescinding the Do Not Use order.

- Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools announced Friday afternoon that all schools would be closing early and after-school activities would be canceled.

All Orange Water and Sewer Authority operations were back to normal Sunday, OWASA said in an update.

Hotels and restaurants can also re-open now, according to health officials.

After more than twenty-four hours-a period in which businesses were forced to close early, the UNC basketball game was rescheduled and moved, and local residents were told not to drink or shower with OWASA water-most OWASA customers can drink again.

UNC Chapel Hill canceled classes Friday at 1 p.m.as students were warned to cease water usage.

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OWASA is no longer receiving water from the Durham as of about 10 p.m. Saturday and ended its transfer of water from Chatham County at about 6 p.m. Saturday. Using water could result in contamination of the OWASA system. Trouble began on Thursday when OWASA discovered an accidental overfeed led to a higher level of fluoride in the water at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment plant.

"We are investigating the fluoride overfeed and water line break, and will report to the OWASA Board of Directors and the community at a later date", OWASA said in the statement. Dining halls gave one free bottle of water to students staying on campus and portable toilets were delivered late Friday night.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle issued states of emergency for their towns. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools closed early as well.

With the water treatment plant offline, water levels in the Orange storage tanks fell. Residents in the Foxcroft Drive area are under a boil water advisory due to the broken water main.

OWASA is working to restore the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant to normal operation as soon as it is safe to do so and field personnel are working to fix the water main break as soon as possible.