Burlington’s contaminated water problems have ripple effect

Burlington’s water problems are having a ripple effect on other cities in Alamance County.

Not with their water, but with lines at many restaurants, with Burlington residents or patrons of Burlington restaurants shuttered by the lack of clean and safe drinking water going to Graham or Mebane where restaurants are unaffected.

The line in Mebane at the Mebane Oaks Road exit stretched out onto the interstate itself Friday afternoon as people exited, many to go to the Chick-fil-A on Mebane Oaks Road which was the only open location of that franchise after two in Burlington (on University Drive and at Huffman Mill/Garden Road) were closed.

Similarly, restaurants all along South Main Street in Graham had lines had to the thoroughfare in the late afternoon/early evening as people sought food at fast-food and other restaurants in lieu of similar locations in Burlington.

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Hursey’s on South Main Street in Graham had drive-through lines reminiscent of pandemic days.

Chick-fil-A in Mebane typically has dual drive-through lines (see photo below), but even with extra order-takers, the line extended beyond the restaurant’s entrance.

Burlington had issued a “Boil Water Advisory” directive on Thursday, telling residential and other customers of the Burlington water system to boil their drinking water until further notice.

Meanwhile, the city on Friday established a bottled water distribution system for those who are not able to boil their own or cannot afford to purchase bottled drinking water.

One case per car will be available, while supplies last, at:

Burlington Fire Headquarters Station  (215 South Church Street)  until 7:30 p.m.  (Cars should plan to enter the drive-thru from Front Street. There will be signs and cones in place to direct vehicles through the pick-up line.)

Fairchild Community Center (827 South Graham-Hopedale Road)  until 6:00 p.m. (Cars should plan to enter the drive-thru from Graham-Hopedale Road.)

 

BACKGROUND
         The city said that during routine sampling on July 14, 2021, E.coli/Fecal coliform bacteria were found at a specific location in the City of Burlington water system. The positive sample came from an outdoor spigot of a residence.

In a subsequent release, the city suggested that the contamination was isolated to a single pipe connected to an outdoor spigot at an apartment building near downtown.  The city also emphasized that the contamination has not affected the City water distribution system, according to the city.

Even though samples taken within the water system immediately upstream and downstream of the spigot showed no bacteria present suggesting that this is an isolated incident, the city issued the boil water directive.

“Even though, the presence of the bacteria does not appear to be widespread, due to Federal and State regulations and out of an abundance of caution, City of Burlington water customers should boil their drinking water until further notice,” the city advised.  “E.coli/fecal coliform bacteria can cause illness and are a particular concern for people with weakened immune systems,” according to the city’s announcement.

City of Burlington water customers include Town of Elon (which highlighted the notice on its own website), Town of Gibsonville, Town of Whitsett, Town of Haw River (which said its own testing had found no problems but passed along Burlington’s boil water notice), Town of Ossipee, Village of Alamance, and parts of the City of Greensboro.  The City of Greensboro has isolated and tested their water system, according to Burlington, and is not under a Boil Water Notice. Surrounding municipalities not listed here (including Graham and Mebane) are not affected by  the Boil Water notice.

The city advised that it has increased its bacteriological sampling throughout the city water system. The water mains are being flushed in the affected area.

By Friday afternoon, however, the “boil water” directive was still in effect.  Burlington says it will notify the public as soon as it is safe to drink the water without the need for boiling.