Boil water advisory lifted for most Carrboro, Chapel Hill customers after water main break

CARRBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- The boil water advisory has been lifted for most Chapel Hill and Carrboro customers after the water main break on Monday, and the UNC Medical Center is back to normal operations.

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Three additional Carrboro locations, affecting about 75 customers, are still under the advisory and have been notified directly.

The incident affected tens of thousands of people as crews rushed to make repairs.

The break sent water gushing outside OWASA's Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant for much of the day.

It caused Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to dismiss students early, UNC-Chapel Hill to cancel classes for the day and UNC Medical Center to redirect trauma patients.

UNC-Chapel Hill also canceled classes for Tuesday through 5 p.m.

Residents coped with the unexpected inconvenience as well as they could Monday.

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Joyce Englehart's son had a liver transplant at UNC Hospital on Friday.

"I was concerned, but our daughter called us and said can you pick up some water so we stopped and got six or seven bottles of water and brought them up to him is all. As long as they have it to drink," Englehart told ABC11. "We were just talking to the nurses that said that they were concerned. They're concerned mostly because of dialysis and stuff -- the things that are urgent.

"Thank God he's post-operative, so that's good," she added.

Lauren Ord, a UNC medical student who is also studying public health had to boil water to make dinner Monday night

"There's so many operations that we don't think about on a day-to-day basis that we use water - that running the hospital alone could deplete the water supply," Ord said. "Sanitation of water is definitely one of the modern things - public health issues that have saved millions of people's lives and now we take it for granted that I can't just turn on the water, faucet and drink it.

"For one day, it's like oh it's happening, it's pretty inconvenient but if this were to go on for an entire week, it would be really sad," she added.

Officials said the break was actively draining OWASA's water storage so customers were encouraged to boil their water.

"The water levels in our storage tank were starting to decrease which is why we asked our customers in Carrboro and Chapel Hill to start conserving water," said Linda Low of OWASA. "What happens when water system pressure decreases, it has a chance of back-flow water entering the system, and it was at that point that we asked our customers to boil their water to ensure the water remains very safe to drink."

UNC Medical Center now has no restrictions on accepting patients or conducting procedures, and its transfer center is back in full operation, spokesperson Phil Bridges said Tuesday evening. UNC Health Care clinics in the Chapel Hill area resumed normal operations at noon on Tuesday.

Jones Ferry Road is closed between Bim Street and Barnes Street in Carrboro.

Officials are unsure what caused the break.

"We understand water is essential for life at home and in businesses and so any incident we take very seriously," Low said. "This was a large event because of the fact that our water storage levels dropped so quickly. As I mentioned, it was a rather large pipe (20 inches)."

Customers should monitor OWASA's website for updates.
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