Water restored for some Canton residents after 5-day outage

Water was restored Wednesday for some Canton residents who had been without for five days. The outage left them frust...

Posted: Jan 11, 2018 6:21 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2018 6:21 PM

Water was restored Wednesday for some Canton residents who had been without for five days. The outage left them frustrated and wanting answers, such as whether Evergreen Paper Mill had any role in the dry spell.

According to information released Wednesday, the massive amount of water used by the mill may have played a role in the outage.

CANTON, N.C. (WLOS) - Water was restored Wednesday for some Canton residents who had been without for five days. The outage left them frustrated and wanting answers, such as whether Evergreen Paper Mill had any role in the dry spell.

According to information released Wednesday, the massive amount of water used by the mill may have played a role in the outage.

Town manager Jason Burrell released two sets of data sheets from two of the 16 daily meters he said are attached to Evergreen Paper Mill's water output. One flow meter shows in the past 30 days the paper mill typically used less than 180,000 gallons a day. But water use spiked to more than 320,000 gallons on Wednesday, Jan. 3, when temperatures were freezing.

The elevated water use on that specific meter read the mill used about 280,000 gallons of water on Saturday, Jan. 6, the day water went out for some 40 homeowners, largely living on and around the Hy Vu Drive area.

Plant managers did not return repeated requests for an interview to find out why the plant was using so much water.

Burrell said the plant was responsible for about half (or 200,000 gallons per day) of the overage of about 400,000 gallons a day during the freezing temperatures the area saw during the first eight days of January.

"We've asked and we've talked with them extensively about reducing their usage during periods of time like this," Burrell said, though he could not specifically say why the plant was using so much water.

Burrell said another contributing factor to the outage was eight Canton water pipe main breaks during the freezing weather.

Canton mayor Zeb Smathers said he plans to order an investigation into the problems causing water outages for residents, including trying to find out why the paper mill is consistently spiking water usage during freeze events.

"What can we do together so this does not occur again," Smathers said when asked what he wants to know from plant management. "Are there things internally when it comes to leaks? Is there any service we can provide to find these leaks?"

As water came back on, more problems arose. As crews opened a fire hydrant to flush the pipes, a four-inch main line began to leak at the end of Hy Vu. A crew with a backhoe began breaking up asphalt to get down to the pipe and try to repair it.

Smathers said wheels are in motion for the city to get a $1.7 million low-interest loan to begin work on the Spruce Street Reservoir that's impacted most by spikes in water use. Water cannot be pumped from the reservoir when it falls below a two-foot depth level, as it was in January.

"I think the citizens will see construction movement up here towards the third quarter of this year," said Smathers, who is calling for a full investigation into what caused the five-day water outage for residents.

Smathers and Burrell said the mill's high water use also played a role in causing a water outage for residents over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2016. There are no ordinances or laws preventing the plant from using more water during times of freezing temperatures.

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