By DEUCE NIVEN
A water main break on one of Whiteville’s main lines Thursday afternoon has prompted a city-wide boil water notice, an urgent request for water conservation, early dismissal of city schools, and cancellation of surgeries at Columbus Regional Healthcare.
A contractor bored through a 12-inch water main on Warrior Trail at Spivey Road Thursday afternoon, city spokeswoman Rachel Rivenbark said in a news release.
The resulting deluge washed away the road and roadbed. Repairs to the line were made overnight, but businesses and residents continued to experience low, or no water pressure into Friday morning.
City schools dissmissd at 11 a.m., and fire department tanker trucks were brought in to Columbus Regional Healthcare to supply chillers for the hospital’s air conditioning units, CRH Emergency Management Director Jeremy Jernigan said.
“Whiteville Fire Department is a city department, it doesn’t have tankers, it works off of hydrants,” Jernigan said. “We brought two tankers in from Tabor City during the night, but we didn’t need them. We’ve brought a tanker in from Nakina this morning.”
Hospital chillers use up to 500 gallons of water per hour, Jernigan said. Friday morning the city system could not keep up with that demand.
“I don’t know how long this will last,” Jernigan said. “I hope it’s resolved in the next two minutes.”
Whiteville workers were restoring water pressure and capacity slowly Friday morning, city spokesman Hal Lowder said.
“We’ve had the pumps going, but we didn’t have them all going at one time,” Lowder said. “We didn’t want to break a line somewhere else.
“We had to drain the whole system. It’s something we’ve never done before, but it had to be done this time.”
Lowder said the contractor putting in underground cable bored through the water line at a point that had been marked.
“The blue lines were right there,” Lowder said. “I don’t know how it happened, but it did.”
All non-emergency surgeries were cancelled at Columbus Regional Friday, spokeswoman Stephanie Miller said. Potential emergency surgeries were to be evaluated, with the preference to divert those patients to another facility.
Elective surgeries don’t typically take place on weekends at Columbus Regional, Miller said, but might happen this week.
Patients continued to be seen in the Emergency Department, Miller said.
Because the open water line could allow harmful bacteria into the water system, the city advised residents to boil water before using it for human consumption, including drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation.
“Vigorous boiling for one minute should kill any disease-causing organisms that may be present in the water,” the city news release said. “This office is strongly urging the water consumers to conserve water whenever possible.”
No time limit was set on the advisory, and the public will be notified when it is lifted, the news release said.