Canton water woes linger following cold snap

Jan. 31—CANTON — The weather hasn't been kind to Canton residents so far this year, especially when it comes to having an ample supply of water.

First, flooding impacted the town's filter plant. Then the cold snap between Jan. 16-22 wreaked havoc on the town's aging water lines, leading to around-the-clock repair efforts.

"Line breaks were caused during the extreme freeze-thaw cycle of the last few weeks," said Canton Town Manager Nick Scheuer. "There were a substantial number of line breaks, with some being quickly identified and others surfacing many days later."

Scheuer said about 250 households and 10 to 15 businesses were impacted by the breaks.

Trouble began before that, however, when the Pigeon River swelled to near flood stages. The town draws its water from the Pigeon but stirred-up silt limited how much the filter plant could take in.

At that point, residents were asked to "be mindful" of their water usage. This also applied to residents in Clyde, which gets its water from Canton.

A week later, a cold snap that dropped temperatures into the single digits took its toll on water lines in town. Despite round-the-clock efforts to repair the breaks, the volume was hard to keep up with.

By Jan. 21, mandatory water conservation notices were issued for both Canton and Clyde. Residents were asked to forego uses such as washing laundry or using the dishwasher. The following day, water pressure issues developed in the Star Ridge Road and Summer Street areas, leading to a boil water advisory.

By Jan. 26, the water issue was dire. The town did not issue a public notice or press release but instead used Facebook as the primary method of keeping residents informed.

"Town crews have been working around the clock to repair the numerous line breaks throughout Town. Because of the substantial water loss during this period, areas of town near the Spruce Street Reservoir have experienced inconsistent pressure and water outages. All known damage to the system has been repaired," according to the town's Facebook post.

The town hoped to restore service within 48 hours. The following day, however, additional line breaks were discovered that led to water pressure reductions along New Clyde Highway and in West Canton. That damage slowed the effort to bring the Spruce Street Reservoir levels back into service over the weekend.

By Monday, another Facebook post stated that all known infrastructure damage in both Canton, and Clyde had been repaired and the reservoir level was improving.

As of Tuesday morning, a boil water advisory was still in place for the Beaverdam community, Champion Drive, North Main, Newfound Street and all of the Spruce Street area.

Reservoir issues

Canton has four reservoirs within the town — Watts, Kims Cove, Spruce and Beaverdam. Watts and Kims Cove remained unaffected, Scheuer said.

"The way our system is configured, the Beaverdam Reservoir will pull the bulk of the water past the Spruce Street Reservoir until it reaches a predetermined level. While Beaverdam levels were lower than during normal operations, it never came close to losing water. Because of the overall system deficit caused by the line breaks (we can only produce a certain amount of water per day) most production was being sent to Beaverdam during lower usage times, which hindered Spruce from building back up."

Clyde lucked out

In Clyde, there was a single water line break that kept the public works staff working through the night, said Richard Hodge, the town's public works director.

The rest of the time, town residents never lost water or water pressure through the cold snap.

By Saturday, Jan. 27, the supply coming from Canton's reservoir was low enough that the town switched to its emergency system, an arrangement that is in place to draw water from the Junaluska Sanitary District, which in turn gets its water from Waynesville.

"We just weren't getting enough water, but when we switched to Junaluska Sanitary District, the reservoir filled back up," Hodge said. "There were no low water pressure issues at all. We fully recovered in 12 hours."

Hodge, who is the former public works supervisor in Canton, said both Clyde and Canton have a mix of water lines. The cast iron lines are the least forgiving when there are freeze-thaw events, while the newer lines offer more flexibility to expand and contract during temperature changes.

Ongoing issue

The current water issues may remind many Canton and Clyde residents of a similar situation a year ago when water line breaks developed just before Christmas, with most water outages happening the week between Christmas and the start of 2023.

That year, the known water line breaks were repaired within a week. But the town hemmorhaged water due to line breaks and leaks at Pactiv Evergreen, eventually forcing the town to throttle water flowing to the mill to preserve water for the rest of town.