DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Repairs have been completed on the 48-inch water main along Buford Highway that broke Wednesday morning. DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond told FOX 5 that the broken section of pipe was fully repaired Friday morning, about 24 hours ahead of schedule.
But all of DeKalb County remains under a Boil Water Advisory after that massive 48-inch water transmission line which runs directly from the water processing facility servicing the entire county burst.
The damaged section of main was 60 feet long and 4 feet in diameter.
"This size line is 48 inches and runs directly from our water treatment plant, so millions of gallons of water run through it every day. It is relatively new, about 20 years old, so it's made of newer materials. It's not something that was slated for repairs or replacement like some of the older lines in our system," said Reggie Wells, Interim Director, DeKalb County Watershed Management.
Gushing water turned Buford Highway into a river during the morning commute Wednesday, and many businesses had low pressure or no water afterward. The torrent was capped several hours after the break was reported, but it caused major problems. Schools, businesses, and even government offices were forced to close because they were without water to provide services.
Businesses along the busy Buford Highway corridor, known for its ecliptic authentic cultural eateries and restaurants, stood empty, unable to use their municipal water supply for cooking or cleaning.
Jose Vargas runs Tidy Car Wash on Buford Highway just down the road from the break. Most of his Wednesday was spent turning away motorists who pulled up to a stall hoping to wash their dirty vehicles. And for a car wash operator, after seeing days of rain, he said the first day of sunshine would have brought brisk business. But Vargas had no water most of the day. Service came back just after 4 p.m., but by then, Vargas said he had turned away more than 150 vehicles.
County officials said they are going to "make businesses whole" that were impacted by the water break. But that phrase came with some fine print. There will be no reimbursements for cars that were not washed or meals not served, but there were a handful of businesses that sustained damage from flooding. Those owners can submit claims for repairs to the county.
One place that was opening was the DeKalb County Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the response to the crisis. The center coordinated the delivery of tankers of water which were used for fire protection and to supply water to area hospitals.
"In the event, we did have a fire and we experience lack of pressure, we have those tankers which carry anywhere from three to five thousand gallons of water," said DeKalb County Fire Rescue's Capt Eric Jackson.
Even the DeKalb County Animal Shelter was struggling to find ways to keep their pups and kittens hydrated.
"It was a structural failure. It was not an aging line. According to supervisors on the scene, it's a relatively new line so it was some type of structural failure. We don't know exactly what caused it." said CEO Michael Thurmond, who promised a complete investigation into the cause.
A preliminary cause is believed to be the structural collapse of a nearby storm sewer line.
"Until we actually excavate the area and completely expose the damaged pipe, removing and analyzing it, then at that time will know what type of failure in the potential cause of the failure," said Wells."It may have collapsed ultimately eroded the support of the pipe and it collapsed under its own weight."
Officials warned despite the restoration of water service, tests would need to be conducted on the water to determine how long the Boil Water Advisory would need to be in effect.
“Watershed officials said they are required to do three rounds of water tests. The water sampling taken for testing requires 24 hours to incubate; therefore, the boil water advisory will be in place until Friday, provided the test don’t reveal a problem,” Wells said in a release.
DeKalb County officials urge that water customers should continue to boil water before using it to cook, drink, or to prepare baby food.
Thurmond says the 48-inch pipe was able to be replaced ahead of schedule partly due to the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority providing some of the much-needed pipe.