DeKalb County

Repairs to DeKalb water main should be done by Friday night, county says

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Crews are working around the clock to restore water services in DeKalb County after a 48-inch water main broke Wednesday morning, disrupting a multitude of services across the county, including hospitals, businesses, restaurants and schools.

Students across the county returned to school on Thursday where bottled water remained an issue.

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The district said they were going to drop off bottled water to all DeKalb County Schools but admitted they didn't have enough for everyone.

If students didn't bring their own bottles to school on Thursday, they district said they just didn't have any.

"It was just pretty much, 'Bring your own water. You have your own water? Good for you,'" one student told Channel 2's Tyisha Fernandes.

Fernandes spoke with students at Tucker High School as they were dismissed at their normal time Thursday.

They described what it was like to attend school after a huge pipe broke along Buford Highway in Doraville the day before.


The broken water main affected everyone’s access to water -- including the county’s 130 schools.

“The water fountains had plastic bags over them because they didn’t want people drinking, the water was polluted, it’s not filtered. So it’s obviously dirty,” another student told Fernandes.

Students said bathrooms at Tucker High worked properly all day but teachers and administrators were not handing out bottled water like school officials said they would.

DeKalb school officials did admit they asked students to bring their own water because they didn't have enough.

[READ: Community donates hundreds of gallons of water to help DeKalb shelter]

“I heard someone say they were providing water bottles but they never mentioned where to receive them from so I didn’t see anyone handing out water bottles,” a student said.

Meanwhile, crews worked all day long replacing the pipe that caused all the issues Wednesday.

They predict that everything will be back to normal by Friday night.

“Unless there’s a completely unforeseen event, we will not go beyond Friday midnight replacing pipe here,” interim director of DeKalb County Watershed Management Reginald Wells said.

Things should be better on Friday as far as the bottled water is concerned because DeKalb County emergency management officials donated nearly 40,000 bottles of water to the schools Thursday afternoon.

[READ: A timeline of recent DeKalb County water breaks]

The DeKalb County Board of Health had 23 inspectors out in the field on Thursday making sure 2,000 restaurants were complying with the boil advisory following Wednesday's water main break.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Wendy Halloran learned one restaurant was shut down for not complying.

The Cafe at Pharr in Dunwoody was open for business Thursday until an employee blew the whistle to Halloran. Within hours, the open sign was turned off and now the door is locked.

“What’s right is right. What’s wrong, is wrong and they’re completely wrong and they’re putting people in jeopardy,” former employee Carla LaRose told Halloran.

[PHOTOS: Major water main break shuts down Buford Highway]

LaRose said she walked off the job at Cafe at Pharr on Thursday morning after she said she witnessed serious violations of the boil order.

“(They) continued to serve drinks from the fountain, drinks that had ice in it, drinks that were made with water, they continued to use the dishwasher and wash all of the dishes,” LaRose said.

She said customers were unaware of the water advisory.

“They have no idea," LaRose said.

LaRose, a trainer in food safety, said she couldn’t stand idly by.

[READ: Community donates hundreds of gallons of water to help DeKalb shelter]

“I confronted them about it. They said, ‘It’s OK, don’t worry about it.’ I am worried about it. It’s not OK,” LaRose told Halloran.

Halloran talked to management Thursday about LaRose’s claims. Julia Chen admitted they were serving ice made with tap water.

“You admit you’ve served your customers ice, right?" Halloran asked Chen.

“Yes, some,” Chen answered.

Chen said the restaurant also washed dishes in the dishwasher with the contaminated water.

[READ: Bottled water a hot commodity in DeKalb County]

According to the DeKalb County Board of Health, both of those things are violations. Restaurants also can't use fountain drink machines and have to use bottled or boiled water in any food product.

LaRose said she notified the health department.

“I just want to make sure someone comes in and investigates,” LaRose said.

Halloran watched as the health inspector arrived at the restaurant.

The inspector conducted her investigation and ordered the restaurant to shut down.

“Are you worried that the customers you did serve, somebody could get sick?” Halloran asked Chen.

“Of course, of course,” Chen said.

Chen said they didn’t have the list telling them what to do. The county said it's incumbent upon them to get it.