Updated Jun 2, 2024 - News

Atlanta water emergency: Crews fix major break, but boil water advisory remains in effect

Atlanta watershed crews work to repair a water main break.

Atlanta watershed crews work to restore a water main break at Boone Boulevard and Brawley Drive near Vine City. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

Atlanta's mayor declared a "state of emergency" for the city Saturday night, hours after crews completed repairs on the primary water main break that's disrupted businesses, medical facilities, concerts, sporting events, and people's lives since Friday.

  • A boil water advisory remained in effect Sunday morning for affected areas, which included Downtown and residential neighborhoods to the east and west.

Why it matters: A large swath of the city went without water or had low water pressure for more than 24 hours following the first break near Vine City Friday.

The latest: Mayor Andre Dickens issued the 72-hour emergency declaration late Saturday night, saying it will "allow us to access resources in an expedited fashion." Crews had fixed the major issue at Boone Boulevard and Brawley Drive and "the system is gradually being brought back online to rebuild pressures."

  • But the city posted Sunday morning that work continues on another water main break at 11th and W. Peachtree streets in Midtown.
  • The mayor, who was in Memphis when the break occurred, said earlier Saturday afternoon that the city had no timeline on when the repairs would be done.
  • Department of Watershed Management commissioner Al Wiggins Jr. said the department doesn't have exact numbers on how many residents and businesses were affected.

Friction point: Dickens also said his administration apologizes for "this disruption to life in the city of Atlanta," and he acknowledged communications gaps that left residents frustrated and confused during the first 24 hours of the situation.

Case in point: State Farm Arena postponed Friday and Saturday's Megan Thee Stallion "Hot Girl Summer Tour" concerts, just hours before the shows each day. The Friday concert has been rescheduled to Sunday, and Saturday's show was moved to Monday.

  • Atlanta United posted that it will play its Sunday home match against Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, scheduled for 4:45pm. But the stadium will have limited food and beverage options and the team encouraged fans to use hand sanitizing stations.

State of play: Dickens said Saturday night the city had delivered fresh drinking and flushing water to more than 30 senior communities, homeless shelters, hospitals and other centers serving vulnerable populations.

  • Emory University Hospital Midtown announced earlier Saturday it would move some patients and divert ambulances due to the water outage, according to the AJC.
  • Grady Memorial Hospital has called in six water tankers to supply the safety-net medical center.

What they found: Atlanta has about 3,000 linear miles of water pipes. This weekend's issues stem from the Boone and Brawley site, where three major lines intersect. Crews determined that they weren't efficiently aligned, which resulted in a water leak that caused corrosion in the pipe.

  • Crews spent Saturday installing new pipes using a different alignment.
  • Wiggins noted that the existing infrastructure is about 80 years old, but there was a major repair done in the area in 2019.

Fire Chief Roderick Smith told reporters that stations around the city are open thanks to partners providing water tankers to help with any fires.

  • They've also opened up four fire stations where residents could use portable toilets and pick up bottled water: Station 1 on Elliott Street, Station 2 on Jonesboro Road, Station 10 on Boulevard and Station 16 on Boone Boulevard.
Water main break at 11th and W. Peachtree streets in Midtown.
A water main break was reported at 11th and W. Peachtree streets in Midtown. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

The big picture: The city and Department of Watershed Management used social media to inform residents about the breaks and the boil water advisory, but many residents expressed confusion about the city's updates.

  • Messages lacked clarity about what areas were affected, for one. The city did not use its text alert system until roughly 24 hours after the first water main break.

What they're saying: Dickens said the city had one press conference Friday afternoon and because repairs were going in a positive direction, they thought the next update would be to inform the public that work was done and water was restored.

  • That update never happened, as crews experienced setbacks overnight Friday into Saturday morning.
  • Now Atlanta and DWM's social media accounts will publish updates every two hours "because we want to make sure that the public knows that we are really treating this as the highest priority," the mayor said.
  • "We could have done a better job over the past day and for that, I apologize in how we have not been able to give you as much up-to-date information as possible," he said.
Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at a press conference
Mayor Andre Dickens speaks to reporters Saturday afternoon at a press conference at the intersection of Boone Boulevard and Brawley Drive. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

Zoom in: The initial "affected area" — a rough rectangle stretching from the city's western edge near I-285 across Downtown and to East Lake — forced restaurants and other businesses to close and people to cancel plans.

  • Paul Calvert of Ticonderoga Club told the AJC he anticipated Friday's closure would set the Krog Street Market restaurant back $10,000. Todd Ginsberg of Fred's Meat and Bread and Yalla put their losses in the "tens of thousands."

The bottom line: The city now is posting regular updates on its social media accounts.

Editor's note: This breaking story was originally published on Saturday, June 1, and has been updated. The most recent update was Sunday morning, June 2.

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