CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The water that serves North Carolina’s flagship university is safe to drink after a broken water main and problems at a water treatment plant forced the school to cancel classes and led restaurants and hotels to close, health and utility officials said Saturday.
The Orange County Health Department and Orange Water And Sewer Authority announced that the water is safe for all uses, but also told customers to limit use because supplies remain below normal.
Additionally, one Chapel Hill neighborhood is under a boil water advisory because of the broken water main, which has since been repaired.
The water problems forced athletic officials to move Saturday’s men’s basketball game between UNC-Chapel Hill and Notre Dame to Greensboro, where it will be played on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the problem began with a fluoride overfeed at a treatment plant. Fluoride is added to water to prevent tooth decay but can be harmful in excessive amounts.
In addition, a broken main leaked up to 1.5 million gallons of water a day after the utility began getting water from Durham following the overfeed.
Orange Water and Sewer Authority kept the over-fluoridated water from reaching its distribution network, and by Friday Durham was sending water to the Orange Water And Sewer Authority at the rate of about 7 million gallons a day, said Vicki Westbrook, the city’s assistant director of water management. Chatham County also began sending water, and the Orange authority said it was working with Hillsborough as well.
With the water treatment plant offline, water levels in the Orange storage tanks fell. And then on Friday, the water main broke.
The loss of 1.5 million gallons from the break reduced water pressure, a health concern because without pressure, water doesn’t flow and harmful bacteria can more easily grow in the mains. The water loss itself also meant there wasn’t enough supply.
The Orange Water And Sewer Authority began working to restore the treatment plant to normal operation and to repair the water main. But the treatment plant’s output required testing before the utility could safely advise customers to use their water again.
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