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News / Nation & World

Atlanta investigating two more potential water main breaks

By Shaddi Abusaid, Jeremy Redmon and David Aaro, , The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS),
Published: June 2, 2024, 2:15pm

Atlanta’s water crisis threatened to expand Sunday, when authorities announced they were investigating two new potential main breaks at Euclid and North avenues and at 1190 Atlantic Drive NW.

Residents and businesses in those areas, according to city officials, might experience the kinds of disruptions that have plagued Atlanta since the first water main break was discovered Friday near Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and James P. Brawley Drive.

Water officials said they shut off a 6-inch main at Euclid and North avenues to begin emergency repairs there. The outage is affecting 35 homes and four hydrants.

Meanwhile, a boil-water advisory for customers near that part of the city could be lifted as soon as tomorrow, if Atlanta gets authorization from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, said Al Wiggins Jr., the city’s Watershed Management Department commissioner.

“So far, we see that the samples are looking good. Water pressure has remained consistent,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sunday.

Georgia’s EPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

In Midtown, water continued flowing from a broken main at West Peachtree and 11th streets, flooding the road and seeping into nearby buildings. Authorities don’t not know what caused that break, though they don’t believe it is connected to the one at Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and James P. Brawley Drive, Wiggins said.

“We won’t be able be able to collect samples for the West Peachtree and 11th street area until we complete the repairs,” Wiggins said.

Some onlookers referred to the break as the “aqua apocalypse” or the “West Peachtree River.”

Atlanta’s water system provides water for 1.2 million people, according to its website. City Hall is rallying to help those in need, said LaChandra Butler Burks, Atlanta’s chief operating officer.

“Our fire recruits were out every hour checking in with hotels and venues,” she said. “Our police recruits were visiting high-rises every hour on the hour to check on our seniors.”

Each resident who needs bottled water may pick up a case at one of six fire stations across the city: Station 1 on Elliot Street in southwest Atlanta, Station 2 on Jonesboro Road, Station 10 on Boulevard, Station 11 on 16th Street, Station 15 on 10th Street or Station 16 on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard.

Musician Megan Thee Stallion had to postpone Friday and Saturday’s concerts at State Farm Arena, but Sunday night’s performance was expected to continue as planned.

Atlanta United’s soccer match against Charlotte FC will be played as scheduled Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the team said on its website. The stadium will have limited food and beverage options due to the boil water advisory, however. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport said its water pressure is fine and that all operations are normal after reporting low water pressure in some of its restrooms on Saturday.

In a 6 a.m. update, the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management said service had been fully restored to the airport, the Fulton County Jail, the Atlanta City Detention Center and several senior high-rise buildings.

Officials announced about 7 p.m. Saturday that crews had completed multiple rounds of repairs on the aging pipe at the junction of Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and J.P. Brawley Drive. The system was gradually being brought back online to allow for the rebuilding of system pressures, the city said. Another major break, at 11th Street and West Peachtree, was still being repaired, Dickens said at a press conference Saturday night. A “State of Emergency” was declared for Atlanta to free up resources to help with the repairs, and the city’s joint operations center was activated.

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“We don’t yet have an estimate for the timeline for that work, but they are out there working feverishly to get it done,” Dickens said.

On Sunday afternoon, the city posted a photo of the mayor speaking with residents during a visit to a senior center.

A spokesperson for Grady Memorial Hospital said Saturday that despite the cancellation of elective procedures, the hospital was “fully operational and our emergency room is accepting all patients.”

Emory University Hospital Midtown said it was “moving to normal operations” on Sunday following the repairs of several water main breaks.

The hospital said water pressure returned to normal overnight and that ambulances had resumed normal service. The hospital also said it would to operate on regular schedules for outpatient doctor’s appointments, procedures and surgeries on Monday.

A spokesperson said the hospital had to move some patients and divert ambulances Saturday, with the exception of those experiencing urgent heart problems. To keep the hospital cool and air conditioning running, 58,000 gallons of water were brought in via six tanker trucks to use in the hospital’s chillers and cooling towers.

Nationwide, a water main break happens every two minutes and an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost each day, enough to fill more than 9,000 swimming pools, according to a 2021 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

That report gave the nation’s drinking water infrastructure a C-, up from a D in 2017. The improvement came, according to the report, as water agencies significantly picked up their pace in replacing waterlines.

Atlanta’s woes highlight the importance of investing in and maintaining such infrastructure, said Tom Dobbins, chief executive officer of the Washington-based Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

“It underscores the critical nature that water plays in our lives,” he said in an interview Sunday, adding: “My heart goes out to the people of Atlanta for what you are going through.”

Pam Burnett, executive director of the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, said she felt “heartsick” about Atlanta’s crisis.

“Water professionals, like medical professionals, put their full effort to ‘stop the bleeding’ in an emergency situation to keep the crisis from getting worse,” she wrote in an email. “Of course, the hope is that the line break can be brought under control quickly and notice to the public can follow with enough detail to explain the situation.

“Major and multiple line breaks are incredibly rare and difficult to address, and it’s frustrating for the public … and especially hard on the water professionals working in the trenches with everyone above them getting angry.”