Some county residents still told to boil water

Tests from some areas aren't back yet
Feb. 21, 2014 @ 08:33 AM

The boil-water advisory for water customers in Lenoir, Baton and Sawmills was lifted Thursday, and there have been no reported illnesses from contaminated water, but Caldwell County is advising water customers in other parts of the county to continue boiling any water for human consumption as a precaution.

Granite Falls has a separate water system, so its water customers have never been under the boil-water advisory.

Tests on water from the affected parts of Lenoir's water system found no contamination. But some of Caldwell County's water system lines were not flushed until late Wednesday afternoon, and water samples from those could not be taken until then, so the samples were not submitted for testing until 9 a.m. Thursday, said Barry Calloway with the Caldwell County Water Department. Those test results are expected back this morning, so the boil-water advisory was extended as a precautionary measure.

DENR tests for two types of bacteria when examining public water: E. Coli and total coliform. If either is ingested, people can get sick in 24 to 72 hours, showing such symptoms as bloody diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting, said Jennifer McKinney, compliance coordinator for the Caldwell County Water Department.

The Caldwell County Health Department had no reports Thursday afternoon of illness due to drinking water affected by the water main break.

The advisory became necessary because crews laying fiber-optic cables along Connelly Springs Road damaged a water line going from a fire hydrant to a high-pressure main line around lunchtime Tuesday, and the main line broke about 8 p.m. while city workers were trying to make repairs. The loss of water pressure raised the possibility of bacteria from house and building plumbing systems going backward into the water system, and the break itself could have exposed the main line to contaminants from mud or surface water, McKinney said.

Repairs were completed about 6 a.m., and work began to restore service and flush the water lines.

A boil-water advisory was first issued by the city of Lenoir about 8 a.m. Wednesday after officials consulted with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Caldwell County issued an advisory some time later -- in automated calls through the CodeRED system after 9 a.m., and in a press release after 10 a.m.

A water system is not legally required to consult with DENR on water main breaks, nor is it required to administer a boil-water advisory, said Jim Adams, public water supply supervisor at DENR.

But McKinney, who was out of town at the time of the break, said, "The water advisory probably should have gotten out sooner."

Adams said that Lenoir officials contacted him around 6:30 or 7 a.m. Wednesday, and they came to the conclusion that a boil-water notice should be issued as a precautionary measure.

Radford Thomas, Lenoir's public utilities director, said city consulted with DENR because of the size of the area affected and because some water lines drained completely, so city officials wanted to make sure they were doing things in the right way. He said he forwarded information he received from DENR to the county just after he got it.

To sign up for the CodeRED emergency notification system that sends out alerts about emergency situations via phone, email and text message, go online to caldwellcountync.org, call Caldwell County Emergency Services at 828-757-1419, or visit the Emergency Services office at the county Health and Human Services building.