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Atlanta water main break causes major disruptions, closures

Atlanta water main break wreaks havoc on city
Atlanta water main break wreaks havoc on city 02:04

Water service was restored to several major buildings in Atlanta after corroding pipes burst in downtown and Midtown, forcing many businesses and attractions to close and affecting water service in area homes, officials said.

By Sunday morning, crews had completed enough repairs so that service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was fully restored, said the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management in a news release. Service was also restored to the Fulton County Jail and the Atlanta City Detention Center, as well as "many of Atlanta's critical facilities, and residents, including several senior high-rise buildings," according to the department.

Atlanta officials were slowly repressuring the city's water system earlier this weekend. The city was handing out cases of water and setting up portable toilets at several fire stations and first responders were checking high-rise residences to see if the elderly or other vulnerable residents were OK.

"Water is a valuable, critical resource and cities can't function and lives can't function without it," Mayor Andre Dickens said during a news conference Saturday morning. "It's absolutely at the top of our list."

In a second news conference Saturday evening, Dickens announced that he had declared a state of emergency over the situation. The mayor said that while the crews had made significant progress repairing the first water main break, they were struggling with the second break in Midtown. 

"We're still addressing the second major break...the repair there has been a little bit more complicated for a few reasons...We don't yet have an estimate on a timeline for that work," Dickens said.

And in a statement Saturday night, the mayor's office said that crews had "completed multiple rounds of repairs" and the "system is gradually being brought back online to allow for the rebuilding of system pressures."

However, a boil water advisory is still in effect for much of Atlanta until the Georgia Environmental Protection Division determines the advisory can be lifted. The Department of Watershed Management said Sunday that it would "follow its line flushing protocols for the system as a precaution" and "sample the affected zones to confirm no contamination."

According to CBS affiliate WANF-TV, the Georgia State Capitol, the Georgia Supreme Court and Atlanta City Hall had no water service Friday.

Some attractions and businesses, including the Georgia Aquarium and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, remained closed Saturday.

"The city-wide water issue is still affecting the Aquarium and many others in the area. This is not affecting our animals, but it is affecting our guest areas like restrooms," the aquarium posted on the social platform X.

The aquarium was expected to reopen Sunday, according to WANF.

The water main break also forced rapper Megan Thee Stallion to move her concert from Friday to Sunday.

"I'm extremely disappointed because I had a huge surprise for the Hotties tonight, but we will follow the Mayor's protocol," she posted on X. "Praying for the people who lost access to water due to this situation."

The problems began Friday morning when water gushed into the street where three large water mains intersect downtown, causing water problems at two hospitals, a city jail, a county jail and local shelters. A separate break occurred later in Midtown, adding to the problem.

Officials were widely criticized for being slow to update citizens on the situation. The city and its water management department sent out an update after 8 p.m. Friday and waited more than 12 hours to update residents again. Dickens didn't address the media until 2 p.m. Saturday and explained he was in Memphis when the problem began.

Someone in the affected area posted flyers around the neighborhood asking "Don't have water?" and "Help us find our mayor."

Dickens promised updates every two hours until the situation is resolved.

"Overnight, we did not do the best job of communicating. We could have done a better job over the past day, and for that, I apologize," he said.

Residents were asked to restrict water usage to allow the pressure in the system to rebuild.

"Certainly we understand the urgency of getting water service restored, but we also want to make sure we do it in a manner that does not cause any further regression of our work," Atlanta Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Al Wiggins Jr. said during a Saturday news conference. "Any water utility, it's a fragile setup."

He said he hoped service would be fully restored Saturday, but he could not guarantee it.

The city urged people to check on elderly or sick neighbors and relatives.

"The entire City Government is mobilized to address this issue," the water department said Friday.

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