With water (or the lack of it) on everyone’s mind, the Hamilton County government held a brief press conference during the late morning hours Sunday to address the situation. A break in a crucial water main left several thousand Chattanoogans without water from Friday morning until Saturday morning. While water is slowly being restored to parts of the city, not every area has water.
Kevin Kruchinski, the director of operations for Tennessee American Water Company, began by thanking the first responders and anyone who had helped during the crisis, before addressing the citizens who were affected.
“I apologize for the inconvenience this event has placed in your lives,” said the director.
He also stressed the continued progress being made in restoring water to every area affected by the broken water main that knocked out water service for over 30,000 Chattanoogans.
“Recovery is still progressing, and it’s going very, very well,” said Mr. Kruchinski, “Higher elevations are the ones, as we’ve been saying from the beginning, are going to take longer to restore, but we’re seeing good progress in those areas.”
Mr. Kruchinski also spoke about the drinkability of the water, saying that testing was still being done on samples sent in to the lab. He said each “section” of Chattanooga would be cleared to drink as a corresponding sample was approved. The speaker said Chattanooga residents are still advised to boil their water until tests come back and clear their area.
Amy Maxwell asked residents to turn their faucets off when they were not at home. Some residents had turned their faucets on, saw there was no water coming out, and left them on. Ms. Maxwell said leaving on a faucet in an unattended home could have disastrous consequences once water was restored to the place.
“We are starting to reduce assets as water is being restored to Hamilton County,” said Ms. Maxwell, who continued by telling the stating that the Emergency Operations Center would still be open for 24 hours a day until the situation was completely resolved.
She said the city has the resources to fight fires and handle emergency situations in any area of the affected area, even if water does not work. She said the city and Mayor Andy Berke’s office will continue to distribute free water bottles from 1 to 6 p.m. at special distribution centers.
At the time, the county is not focused on figuring out why the water main broke, and will only research this after the current situation has been resolved. The status of Hamilton County schools has not yet been decided.
Later, city officials said, "Tennessee American Water announced that water is fully restored in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. Additionally, they announced that samples taken from across the city have proven that the water is clean and clear for consumption in the majority of the previously affected area.
"However, Tennessee American Water expects to receive more samples throughout the night and their Code Red System, which is their emergency notification system, will continue to inform customers as results come in and boil advisories are lifted.
"Throughout the weekend event, multiple City Departments worked around the clock to ensure the safety and comfort of Chattanooga residents.
“On the day that the outage occurred, a new record high temperature was set in the city of Chattanooga. Getting full service restored as quickly as possible has been our top priority since we were notified by Tennessee American Water about what happened,” said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “This outage affected tens of thousands of our most vulnerable families, and I'm grateful to the swift action by the Chattanooga Police Department, the Chattanooga Fire Department, the Department of Public Works, Youth and Family Development, responders at the Emergency Operation Center, and Tri-State Mutual Aid Association, as well as, the many volunteers who made sure that bottled water was distributed in areas of greatest need and that Tennessee American had the assets needed to help fix the break.”
"Since Thursday night our combined efforts have delivered:
Approximately 300,000 bottles of water to those in need -- that equates to 12,000 cases of water or 221 pallets.
Ninety were home deliveries.
Close to 100 volunteers including Chattanooga Police and Fire Cadets, Chaplins and staff, and Public Works staff. Also, 54 police officers volunteered their personal time.
Water was provided by Tennessee American Water, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and Coca-Cola.
Water to hospitals, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga to ensure employees, patients, students and animals could stay cool in rising temperatures.
Pump trucks that assisted Tennessee American Water in removing excess water from the water main so repairs could begin.
TVA’s Remote Water Pump located at Ross’s Landing. This device is used to pump water from the Tennessee River to maintain immediate water flow for Fire Apparatus during the water outage.
Water via portable pumps along the river to fill water tanks.
31 tankers from Tri-State Mutual Aid, Knox County, Knoxville, and Upper Cumberland strike teams for fire suppression efforts.
"Tennessee American Water has said they plan to do an analysis of the water main break to understand what may have caused the issue."
At a 4 p.m. press conference, Tennessee American Water Company President Darlene Williams promptly told the press some rather good news.
"Through the hard work of our employees at Tennessee American Water, I'm pleased to announce the boil warning has been lifted for the majority of our customers," said the president, “I would like to thank our customers for their patience, understanding and support throughout this event.”
Kevin Kruchinski said everything east of Missionary Ridge has been cleared, but there are still pockets of Chattanooga whose water is yet to be tested. These yet-untested areas are denoted in yellow on the map image.
All Hamilton County schools will be open tomorrow and start at their normal time, although a few schools in Signal and Lookout Mountain will be supplied with bottled water. While services will be trimmed down throughout the day, a water distribution center will still operate Monday in the city from morning until evening at the John A. Patton Center.
Bonnie Deakins, the Environmental Health Director for Hamilton County, said a boil advisory has been lifted for most restaurants. Those still operating in a yellow zone are advised to boil water used for consumption or cooking, even if in ice form.