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Tuesday August 16th

OWASA issues urgent message to stop using water

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UPDATE (4:49 p.m.): It will be about 24 hours before OWASA will know if the water in Chapel Hill and Carrboro is safe to drink, Executive Director Ed Kerwin said.

The Orange County Health Department asks that OWASA customers not use the water under any circumstances, because its safety cannot be guaranteed.

Because of the break in the water main Friday morning, storage tanks dropped to a very low level. OWASA is asking that customers not drink the water because there is a possibility that it  is contaminated. They will have test results back in about 24 hours.

OWASA will continue to receive drinking water from the City of Durham to increase their storage of safe drinking water. In the meantime, OWASA is working to move in drinking water from the Town of Hillsborough and the Chatham County system. 

Kerwin said he expects it to be at least 48 hours before the OWASA plant in Carrboro is producing drinking water. 

Orange County Emergency Services is working to set up points of distribution of bottled water. Donations can be taken to Chapel Hill Community Center at 120 S. Estes Dr.


UPDATE (2:37 p.m.): According to an Alert Carolina, Lenoir Dining Hall is closed, but Rams Head Dining Hall will stay open until 5 p.m. 


UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger issued a state of emergency at 1:15 p.m. Friday for the Town of Chapel Hill due to the OWASA water shortage.


UPDATE (2:01 p.m.): Town of Hillsborough water customers are not affected by the emergency OWASA situation. The town of Hillsborough uses a separate water system from the OWASA system, so the water is safe to use. But customers are asked to conserve water as the town of Hillsborough is trying to provide water to the OWASA system. 


UPDATE (1:45 p.m.): Here is a map showing the availability of bottled water at local grocery stores. We will be updating it as we hear back from stores.


UPDATE (1:12 p.m.): According to a message from Alert Carolina, the University canceled classes and closed offices effective at 1 p.m. Friday.


UPDATE (12:49 p.m.): Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools closing early Friday due to water situation. 

The Harris Teeter on North Greensboro Street in Carrboro is running low on bottled water. 


UPDATE (11:50 a.m.): The Orange Water and Sewer Authority issued an emergency message telling customers to stop using water.

There has been a water main break on the northeast side of Chapel Hill near Dobbins Drive. Due to this break and the shutdown of the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant, water supply in the OWASA system is very low.

Because the water supplies are so low, using water could contaminate the water system. OWASA encourages customers to use bottled water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. 


The Orange Water and Sewer Authority issued an urgent message Friday morning asking customers to limit water use to only essential tasks due to reduced water levels in their storage tanks.

OWASA said in a statement the best ways to conserve water includes flushing toilets only when necessary, taking short showers and using paper plates and plastic utensils to reduce dishwashing. 

The shortage is caused by an accidental overfeed of fluoride within the water treatment process at OWASA's Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant, according to the statement. No water with higher than normal fluoride reached the pipe system, so the water is safe to drink. 

OWASA started receiving water from the City of Durham late Thursday afternoon, but the water flow between the Durham and OWASA systems was not adequate to fill OWASA's tanks to normal levels, which caused the shortage, according to the statement. 

OWASA has not said when operations will be back to normal but is working to restore the Jones Ferry plant as soon as it is safe to do so. 

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