UPDATE: Chatham County has cancelled the boil advisory, confirming that no leak occurred. Here is the county’s full statement, released at 3:04 p.m. Thursday:
“Chatham County Water Utilities has announced that residents in sections of North Chatham no longer have to boil county water before using it for consumption. The State Division of Water Quality has verified that the water supply meets state standards and does not have to be boiled.
“A boil water notice was issued yesterday due to an unexpected drop in water pressure affecting specific parts of north Chatham. Utilities staff found no leaks or technical problems in the water system, but water pressure returned to normal levels. This points to the possibility that a private contractor doing utility work in the area may have impacted a water valve.”
Chatham County Public works director David Hughes says Wednesday’s advisory to residents in northern Chatham County was strickly precautionary and that he doesn’t believe there was every a break in the line.
“We don’t believe it was a break,” Huges says. “We suspect it was a contractor who closed some valves and shut off supply, so there was never a break in the line. Our tanks never dropped. We didn’t do anything particular, and the system regained pressure and went back to normal operating. So, the potential for contamination is very low. It’s possible but unlikely.”
Hughes says any time there is a drop in water pressure, water samples are taken to check for contaminants and safety measures are taken ensure no one consumes what is potentially hazardous.
While it takes just a few minutes more, he says the best course of action is to follow the safety instructions when they’re handed our—even when danger is not suspected and it’s just a precautionary step.
“They should boil the water for a minute to two minutes until we get the results back,” Hughes says.
In Orange County, Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) Board of Directors Chair, Alan Rimer says there are processes in place to protect from such an event.
“We have a number of storage tanks that contain several million gallons of water, and those tanks are managed by…a system of intercommunication between the treatment plant and these tanks,” Rimer says. “So, we can control the rate at which that water is put into the system at a pressure which would never allow for it to drop below a particular pressure level that would require a boil order.”
In fact, Rimer says it could be up to a day before the water system’s pressure drops below a safe level.
“We might ask folks to conserve, but certainly not to boil,” Rimer says.