By Beth Lawrence

For the second time in a month the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority  experienced a weekend crisis, but unlike the March 13 sewer issues, this one directly impacted customers.

An unidentified issue began causing widespread pressure loss late last week leaving customers at higher elevations in Sylva, Dillsboro and Webster with little or no water, leading TWSA to issue an alert using the county’s CodeRED emergency notification system.

“Thursday evening around 6:30 p.m. we received a call from a customer with low water pressure in Dillsboro,” TWSA Director Daniel Marring said.

Using the location of the pressure loss, crews were able to determine there was a break in the Webster/Dillsboro area.

Heavy rains hampered efforts to locate the issue, but by early Friday morning a broken line in Dillsboro had been identified as the culprit and work began on the repair.

“They searched and turned valves to try and isolate the issue until approximately 4 a.m.,” Manring said. “They believed to have isolated the issue to North River Road, but no exact location was determined. Friday morning when the rain ceased, crews continued to search and found the leak underneath a concrete culvert. A 6-inch PVC water main broke. It appears that a section of the concrete culvert failed and dropped on the water main splitting the line.”

The rains stopped long enough for crews to begin repairs.

Once the damage was located, TWSA’s maintenance crews were able to restore service to most customers experiencing outages with the exception of a ¼ mile section of North River Road.

Crews were then required to excavate the area, remove concrete debris, replace the PVC line and repair the culvert. They were then required to flush the waterlines.

“(Repairs) took the entire day of March 26, and water was restored to all impacted customers by approximately 8 p.m.,” Manring said.

During the repairs and for a short time after TWSA issued a boil water advisory. Boil water advisories are necessary when a system’s positive pressure falls below 20 pounds per square inch, which could allow bacteria to enter the system. That does not necessarily mean the system was contaminated. The advisory is a required precaution.

“The intent of the advisory was for those that had lost service or had extremely low pressure to use caution and boil water,” Manring said. “These advisories should typically be for at least 24 hours to give TWSA a chance to do water quality testing to verify that there are no known contaminants in the water. TWSA took samples in multiple known areas impacted by the outage and waited until after those test results were received before lifting the boil advisory. I think some of the confusion was in how we used Jackson County Emergency Management’s CodeRED system to let folks know about it. Many people did not understand that CodeRED is not a status, but the name of their communication system. We encourage all folks in Jackson County to become familiar with this system and register for it at jacksonnc.gov so that they can receive alerts regarding a variety of subjects in our county.”

The advisories and alerts were sent out on the grounds of public safety and were preventative in nature.

Crews work as quickly as possible to restore or maintain service in an emergency but are required to do so safely following certain requirements, Manring said.

He asked for the public’s patience and understanding when issues arise.

Having two major issues in a month is not “ideal timing,” but not an indication of a systemwide problem, he said.

Manring admits that there is aging infrastructure that needs to be dealt with in the future, but TWSA is not unique. The problem is one faced by municipalities and counties across the U.S.

“TWSA certainly is not immune,” he said. “It’s important for us to prioritize accordingly to constantly work at improving and replacing aging infrastructure.”