Asheville residents sound off on water outage, preparedness
A major development out of Asheville on Wednesday, the southern water treatment facility is producing water for distribution. But issues continue for many people that’s been ongoing for at least the past two days. Restoration of service may not be restored for another 48 hours.
GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A major development out of Asheville on Wednesday, the southern water treatment facility is producing water for distribution. But issues continue for many people that’s been ongoing for at least the past two days. Restoration of service may not be restored for another 48 hours.
Victor and Jennifer Diaz have spent the past 36 hours shopping for water.
“It might be more of a struggle for other people but we’re working with it,” Victor said. “(We ration bottle water) to wash our hands, flush toilets, cook, do what ever we need with water.”
The married couple is also thinking of their fellow neighbors.
“It was unfortunate to see people take water that belongs to babies (from the grocery store), it’s really sad, but I understand the situation,” Victor said.
A water situation officials spoke twice about on Wednesday.
“Folks want an ETA when is the water going to come out of my faucet. and the answer is we can’t precisely tell you,” said Esther Manheimer, City of Asheville mayor. We can tell you today that that Mills River Plant is gradually going to be brought back on line that is the hope. But we also know that we have to be very careful in bringing that system back so that we don’t create any greater harm. And also ensure that the water is safe to drink as we bring it back on line.”
And during Wednesday’s press conference, officials weren’t the only people in attendance.
“I think it was three days too late,” said John Nicolay, City of Asheville resident
Nicolay believes officials haven’t been open enough about the strategy to get water back to the 38,000 people impacted.
“Hope is not a strategy for anything. These are engineering things there can be solid reasons why something went wrong things do go wrong -- I get that. But there can be more specificity to these things and the public deserves that and in a timely way,” Nicolay said.
According to officials, it was a culmination of a several main line water leaks, private breaks, higher consumption of water from the public, and a failure at the Mills River Intake Plant which produces water for South Buncombe County and southern Asheville.
“So when it went offline, it was not of immediate concern because the system has been able to be sustained without it for long periods of time,” said Manheimer. “In fact, Asheville council was not even made aware because it wasn’t considered an emergency situation on Dec. 24, it wasn’t until later when the usage in the system skyrocketed past what even a normal level would be that it became clear that without that facility there wasn’t going to be enough water in the system to supply customers.”
During the first press conference, officials were pressed on the extreme cold and their preparedness for impacts to 1,700 miles of water lines.
“We were prepared almost a month ago when we went through our incident command training,” said
David Melton, Asheville Water Resources director.
Melton was also pressed on the region’s growth, and preparedness.
“We’re at about 50% of our rated capacity at this point. So we’re absorbing that growth and we’re okay,” he said. “There’s state regulations in place when you get to 80% of your capacity, you have to start planning for capacity at this point in time, so right now we’re okay. As mentioned, this is just unprecedented.”
Melton says with the southern water facility back online as of noon Wednesday, people living closest to it should see their water restored first. But this brings little immediate relief for many businesses and residents.
“I don’t run the city, you don’t run the city, other people are paid to run the city and when things happen, things happen and they should be prepared,” Nicolay said.
Vulnerable populations who are unable to get water for themselves are asked to call 211, the line reopens at 9am Thursday. This is a developing story.
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