6 million gallons in ‘a couple hours.’ Rock Hill water main break shuts down service

A countywide boil-water advisory has been issued and some people were without water late Wednesday after a 20-inch water main broke at the Rock Hill water filter plant on Cherry Road, according to the city.

The break has resulted in low water pressure for customers, which could create contaminated water. The advisory is in effect indefinitely.

Around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, Rock Hill said crews were able to expose the broken pipe and started making repairs.

The water plant was shut down to stop the flow of water, the city said. Crews will replace the ruptured cast iron pipe, which is one of several that feed water from the plant to the distribution center, with a new piece. The city hopes to have the plant running again by midnight.

The broken water main and loss of pressure forced the closure of all non-essential York County services for Thursday, said Trish Startup, spokesperson for York County.

Jimmy Bagley, deputy city manager, said during a press conference Wednesday, about 12 million gallons of water has been lost from the city’s system as a result of the break.

He said the department will spend Thursday re-pressurizing the system and flushing hydrants to reduce air in the lines and clear sediment. The city said it will take about 12 hours to re-pressurize the system.

As of 4 p.m., Cherry Road was closed for several blocks between Mt. Gallant Road and the parking lot at Publix. Inches-deep water had filled much of the street and drain lines were overloaded.

Bagley said the break was not caused by construction on Cherry Road. He said the break happened in the ground in front of the plant.

“Nobody was expecting it or looking for it,” Bagley said. “The first reports came in because of mud that was out in the street. We thought and hoped it was a smaller leak, but obviously as it continued, we lost about 6 million gallons in a couple hours.”

Rock Hill draws water from Lake Wylie and sells it to Fort Mill, Tega Cay, York and York County. The county distributes it to customers and private water providers, including Blue Granite Water Company in Lake Wylie. Bagley said the system serves more than 125,000 people.

“If anybody’s had discolored water or low pressure, then your system, even though it may not be directly with Rock Hill, it may be through two or three other providers, but there’s a chance it’s interconnected and you’re seeing some of the results from that,” Bagley said. “Certainly if you have low pressure, I would consider boiling even if you don’t think you’re connected to the city.”

Rock Hill is asking York County and municipal water customers, including City of Rock Hill customers, to reduce water use as much as possible.

Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Winthrop University all sent out online or social media messages informing residents and customers of the break and asking them to reduce water use as much as possible.

Tega Cay said on its website that residents and customers should try not to use any water until further notice. The tanks in Tega Cay have water, but the town said the water could run out if customers don’t “drastically reduce usage immediately.”

Bagley said the city advised the schools to not open Thursday. Several York County schools decided to cancel classes and after school activities Thursday. Area colleges are also closed.

Bagley said this is the first time Rock Hill has had to deal with a situation like this.

“I’ve been here 30 years and the first I’ve experienced this was during Hugo,” Bagley said. “We did start running into some low pressures in parts of town where we did let folks know that they needed to try to conserve while we were able to get the power back on. It was more a power issue than it was a water break.”

The city will update residents through the county’s reverse 9-1-1 text and email system, Bagley said.

Mark Simmons, Rock Hill Fire Department deputy chief, said that the fire department is prepared to handle its normal response to incidents during the water main repairs. The city’s stations each have tanker trucks that are already filled with thousands of gallons of water each.

More, the city has a mutual aid agreement with York County fire departments in case more water is needed for any incident while the repair work is ongoing, Simmons said.

York County also has access to extra tankers from other sources if needed, said Chuck Haynes, emergency management director.

Although most York County services and offices will be closed Thursday because of the water main break, a few areas remained operational. The York County landfill, and county Collection and Recycling Centers will be open and operate on normal schedule with the exception of three locations, Startup said.

The Baxter, Allison Creek and Mount Gallant Road recycling centers will be closed Thursday.

Included in the closures of York County government offices and services are all York County circuit criminal, civil and Family courts, said David Hamilton, York County Clerk of Court.

However, emergency and public safety services will work Thursday, officials said.

The York County Sheriff’s Office at the Moss Justice Center houses more than 400 inmates at the county detention center, as well as 350-plus employees.

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said that the office has made emergency preparations for handling potential loss of water at the detention center that will ensure safety and security for inmates, employees, and the public.

Piedmont Medical Center, the hospital located in Rock Hill, is operational yet has canceled all elective and outpatient surgeries for Thursday, said Daisy Burroughs, spokesperson for the hospital, in a statement to The Herald.

The elective procedures and outpatient services that have been postponed for Thursday will be rescheduled as soon as the situation has been resolved, Burroughs said.

The hospital has water for medical, hygiene, and other needs, Burroughs said.

“We have brought in an abundant supply of sterile, potable and drinking water to accommodate the needs of all of our patients, employees and visitors,” Burroughs said.

How to Purify Bacteria Contaminated Water by Boiling:

  • Bring water to a rolling boil and keep it there for at least 1 full minute. Then, let it cool before using.

  • Stop using appliances and equipment that use drinkable water, such as dishwashers, icemakers, tea brewers and coffee makers.

  • Use disposable paper, plastic or foam plates, cups, forks, etc.

  • Prepare food using water that has been boiled.

  • Wash hands with water that has been boiled and cooled.

  • Wash, rinse and sanitize pots, pans and other equipment with water that has been boiled and cooled.

  • Brush your teeth with either boiled or bottled water.

Check back for updates.

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