Repairs continue as DeKalb recovers from water main break


The Chick-fil-A in Doraville, just feet away from the site of a water main break that crippled DeKalb County, was open on Thursday. But customers could only order via the drive-thru and the menu was limited to sandwiches and nuggets.

A sister store in downtown Decatur remained closed on Thursday, although employees told customers that they were hoping to open on Friday by mimicking the Doraville location’s model.

These are the kinds of decisions businesses faced in the aftermath of the massive spill that caused water pressure issues and closures on Wednesday and led to a countywide boil water advisory. Although water pressure was back to normal on Thursday, some restaurants remained closed.

The water main break caused inconveniences throughout the county starting early Wednesday morning. Schools and colleges closed. Hospitals turned away ambulances and cancelled surgeries. Businesses sent workers home. Bottled water sold out in the stores and gas stations.

By Thursday, just about everything was back to normal. Reginald Wells, interim director of the Watershed Management Department, said calls to Watershed Management were at the usual levels.

DeKalb officials said that Doraville police first noticed something was amiss around 2 a.m. Wednesday, but initially they thought it was a faulty hydrant or a lesser water main breach. It was 5 a.m. when the source of the leak and the severity of the issue was established.

The county issued a press release announcing the boil water advisory at 7:28 a.m. that morning. Water pressure had dropped so severely countywide that the water supply became vulnerable to contamination.

A text message alert was sent through the county’s Code Red system at 8:29 a.m. and again at 9 a.m.

Lorraine Murray, who lives in Decatur, said she woke up at 7 a.m. to start her day and noticed the low pressure when she turned on the faucet. She believes the alert came too late, after people had started their morning routines.

“This means that huge numbers of people in DeKalb County woke up and drank tap water — just like I did,” she said. “They also gave water to their babies and small children.”

DeKalb officials said Thursday that it is too early to talk about how the spill was handled and what lessons they have learned. They said their focus was on repairing more than 60 linear feet of the 48-inch water main.

“The plan is to have all the pipe work finished and water being put on the system early Saturday morning at the latest,” said Reginald Wells, interim director of the Watershed Management Department.

The county also hoped that by Saturday the Georgia Environmental Protection Division would decide whether the boil water notice could be lifted.

In announcing that schools would reopen on Thursday, the DeKalb County School District said that it would provide bottled water and hand sanitizer for students. Meals would be prepared without water.

Parents were encouraged to send their kids to school with bottled water. The community also chipped in.

The DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency partnered with Walmart to donate more than 72,000 bottles of water to 130 public schools and three DeKalb Medical campuses. Local realtors delivered pallets of water to Chamblee and Redan high schools after rallying on social media.

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Tia Mitchell keeps you updated on the latest happenings in DeKalb County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in DeKalb politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

New Hampshire boy, 2, rescued after being trapped under rock pile
New Hampshire boy, 2, rescued after being trapped under rock pile

Police and fire officials in New Hampshire rescued a 2-year-old boy who was trapped under a pile of rocks Friday. >> Read more trending news  Portsmouth authorities responded to a call around 5:40 p.m. At the scene, officials found the boy pinned between large slabs of stone. Preliminary investigation showed the boy had been playing...
BREAKING: Man sought in DeKalb home invasions arrested
BREAKING: Man sought in DeKalb home invasions arrested

The man sought in connection with several home invasions in DeKalb County has been arrested, police said Sunday. Corey Griffin, 48, was located in Atlanta and taken into custody, Clarkston police Sgt. Jasond Elliott said. Griffin will be booked into the DeKalb County jail, according to Elliott. MORE: DNA helps police ID man wanted in multiple...
Memphis funeral home hit by lightning, burns down moments before service
Memphis funeral home hit by lightning, burns down moments before service

A Tennessee funeral home burst into flames after it was hit by lightning, moments before a service Saturday morning. >> Read more trending news Storms blew through Memphis on Saturday, bringing strong winds and dangerous lightning. Around 8:30 a.m., lightning hit the Forest Hill Funeral Home. Relatives and friends had gathered for the ...
Political ad by Texas war hero running for Congress goes viral
Political ad by Texas war hero running for Congress goes viral

A decorated Air Force veteran is running for Congress, and the Texas Democrat released a political video that went viral since its release Thursday, USA Today reported. >> Read more trending news  Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar, who won a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in Afghanistan, is running for...
Texas veteran, 79, evicted for failing to pay taxes on home
Texas veteran, 79, evicted for failing to pay taxes on home

A veteran who has lived in a Texas home for decades is homeless after he was unable to pay back taxes and the house was sold at public auction, WFAA reported. >> Read more trending news  Billie McGruder turns 80 next month. He has lived in the house his parents bought in the 1930s for decades, but he was evicted Friday, the television...
More Stories