Charlotte Water on Wednesday morning lifted a boil advisory in effect since late Monday after a water main break temporarily disrupted service across the city.
Service was restored early Tuesday, but concerns remained over water quality in the 16 affected ZIP codes.
As a precautionary measure, Charlotte Water had advised customers who experienced low or no water pressure to boil water before drinking it, making ice from it and brushing teeth or washing dishes with it.
UPDATE: Boil Water Advisory Lifted
Laboratory test results confirm drinking water has met all water quality standards. Charlotte Water customers can use drinking water as normal. More info at https://t.co/TtlW80tsb9 pic.twitter.com/6ZS6SWz5yF
— Charlotte Water (@CLTWater) October 20, 2021
Charlotte Water announced the lifting of the advisory at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
“Laboratory test results confirm drinking water has met all water quality standards,” officials said on Twitter. “Charlotte Water customers can use drinking water as normal.”
The water main broke around 4 p.m. Monday in the 1400 block of Remount Road, Charlotte Water Director Angela Charles told reporters Tuesday. That’s near Irwin Creek and Revolution Park.
After containing the break, Charlotte Water staff immediately flowed and tested samples from 260 fire hydrants and 104 other sites, according to a department news release on Wednesday.
The boil advisory was lifted after the water samples “met all required water quality standards, and bacterial testing was negative,” officials said in the release.
“The health and safety of our customers is always our top priority,” Charles said in the statement. “This was a significant break that required coordination to isolate the break, a thorough assessment of the damage, and analysis of the impacts and appropriate next steps.
“We now have test results confirming that our water system worked as designed,” she said.
Charles thanked the public for their patience. “We understand this was a challenging time for our customers, and we appreciate your support and trust in our system and team. Charlotte Water is reviewing this incident for improvement opportunities including customer communications.”
Charlotte Water is still determining the extent of damage to the water main, she said.
Customers with cloudy or discolored water should run cold water for 10 to 15 minutes, officials advised. If the discoloration continues, call 311 or 704-336-7600 .
Cause still unknown
On Tuesday, Charles said the disruption was so large because the break occurred on a transmission main, which carry large volumes of water from the plant to different parts of the city.
“I have been working in this community for over 33 years, and certainly I have had my share of water main breaks,” she said. “This is one of the most serious, largest ones that we have had. This one was historical.”
Typical water lines affect smaller areas, like individual neighborhoods, she said. This transmission main is 36 inches in diameter and buried 15 feet below a creek bed, Charles said, and it was installed in 1955.
The cause of the break remains under investigation, Charles said.
“We’re not sure that age was the cause, but age can be a factor,” she said.
Charles did not have an estimate of the number of residential and commercial customers affected, in part because the low pressure issues are related to several factors, including elevation.
There have been no reports of illness from water customers, Charles said.
Crews from the N.C. Department of Transportation inspected the Remount Road bridge near the break “and determined there is no threat” to travelers, Charles said.
“It will be a difficult repair,” she said of the water line. There is no estimate for when repairs will be complete, a water department spokesman said later Tuesday.
Residents on social media expressed frustration after the break, saying the communication about who should boil water had been delayed and wasn’t clear.
One message from the city around 9:20 told affected customers they “can boil water used for human consumption.” Then, an overnight update advised those affected by low or no pressure that they should boil their water for 48 hours.
Charles, when asked about the delayed notification, said it took time to determine the size and scope of the outage, and whether the pressure drop was sufficient for an advisory. She said the department is considering how to improve electronic communication and alerts to residents.
“We are looking at the methods that we used ... to notify folks,” she said. “We feel like we responded quickly but there’s room for improvement.”
Water main break fallout
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools alerted parents that students at affected schools are receiving bottled water and “alternative food services.”
As of Wednesday, according to CMS, the schools are Ashley Park Elementary, Community House Middle, Cotswold Elementary, Elizabeth Lane Elementary, Elizabeth Traditional, First Ward Creative Arts Academy, Garinger High, Harding High, Jay M. Robinson Middle, Kennedy Middle, McAlpine Elementary, Metro School, Northwest School of the Arts, Palisades, Phillip O. Berry Academy, Rama Road Elementary, Rea Farms STEAM Academy, Thomasboro Academy, Tuckaseegee Elementary, Turning Point Academy, Turning Point — Thompson Center, University Park Creative Arts and West Mecklenburg High.
“We hope tomorrow the city will give us the all clear to go back to normal operations at these schools,” an official with the CMS communications team told the Observer.
“We are following city and health department guidance,” the official said. “CMS has been in communication with representatives from the City of Charlotte and the Health Department and have been advised to provide drinking water to impacted schools for one more day. Meals will be served as normal, with minor adjustments to the menu.”we
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library previously said Allegra Westbrooks Regional, ImaginOn, Main Library, Myers Park and SouthPark Regional libraries would close until further notice because of “plumbing issues.”
Observer staff writers Anna Maria Della Costa, Lauren Lindstrom, Jonathan Limehouse, Catherine Muccigrosso, Mark Price and Hannah Smoot contributed to this story.