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Downtown Atlanta water service disrupted, forcing business closings and water boil notice

Jun 1, 2024, 7:39 AM | Updated: 5:14 pm

Atlanta officials were slowly repressuring the city’s water system Saturday after corroding water pipes burst in downtown and Midtown, forcing many businesses and attractions to close and affecting water service in area homes.

The city was handing out cases of water and setting up portable toilets at several fire stations and first responders were checking high rise residences to see if the elderly or other vulnerable residents were OK.

“Water is a valuable, critical resource and cities can’t function and lives can’t function without it,” Mayor Andre Dickens said during a news conference Saturday. “It’s absolutely at the top of our list.”

The problems began Friday morning when water gushed into the street where three large water mains intersect downtown, causing water problems at two hospitals, a city jail, a county jail and local shelters. A separate break occurred later in Midtown, adding to the problem.

Officials were widely criticized for being slow to update citizens on the situation. The city and its water management department sent out an update after 8 p.m. Friday and waited more than 12 hours to update residents again. Dickens didn’t address the media until 2 p.m. Saturday and explained he was in Memphis when the problem began.

Someone in the affected area posted flyers around the neighborhood asking “Don’t have water?” and “Help us find our mayor.”

Dickens promised updates every two hours until the situation is resolved.

“Overnight, we did not do the best job of communicating. We could have done a better job over the past day, and for that, I apologize,” he said.

A boil-water order was still in effect Saturday for a large swath of metro Atlanta. Residents were asked to restrict water usage to allow the pressure in the system to rebuild.

“Certainly we understand the urgency of getting water service restored, but we also want to make sure we do it in a manner that does not cause any further regression of our work,” Atlanta Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Al Wiggins Jr. said during a Saturday news conference. “Any water utility, it’s a fragile setup.”

He said he hoped service would be fully restored Saturday, but he could not guarantee it.

Some attractions and businesses, including the Georgia Aquarium, remained closed Saturday.

“The city-wide water issue is still affecting the Aquarium and many others in the area. This is not affecting our animals, but it is affecting our guest areas like restrooms,” the aquarium posted on the social platform X.

The city urged people to check on elderly or sick neighbors and relatives.

“The entire City Government is mobilized to address this issue,” the water department said Friday.

Rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s concert was moved from Friday to Sunday. She was also scheduled to perform at the State Farm Arena on Saturday. That performance was scheduled to go on as of Saturday morning, but was still questionable a few hours before it was supposed to begin.

“I’m extremely disappointed because I had a huge surprise for the Hotties tonight, but we will follow the Mayor’s protocol,” she posted on X. “Praying for the people who lost access to water due to this situation.”

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