By Katheryn Bourne, Staff Writer–
UTC and surrounding community residents experienced a water outage after a main pipe break on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. The outage affected up to 35,000 residents and left the UTC campus without water for two days. Tennessee American Water, the company in charge of the repairs, issued a boil advisory Saturday, Sept. 14. This advisory was lifted on Sunday afternoon, and water was resorted to residents of UTC the same day.
The span of the incident became apparent on Friday as businesses across Chattanooga closed their doors or made significant adjustments, including Erlanger, CHI Memorial, the Hamilton County jail, the Tennessee Aquarium, and several North Shore restaurants. Tennessee American Water called this outage their biggest in recent history. According to Tennessee American Water, workers observed the break while performing maintenance on a different pipe.
As for UTC students, dorms on campus were attempting to counteract the shortage. Water bottles and food services were offered at UTC’s POD locations between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. over the weekend. Being without water, for some, did not disrupt daily life as expected.
James Clark, a junior and business management major, was not directly affected by the break but expressed his annoyance with the lack of water on campus.
“The outage was kind of annoying but that was about it,” he said. “I didn’t really think it was anything major and it was over pretty quickly. It’s just one of those things that occurs occasionally, you just can’t really help it.”
Like many other students, Clark left campus for a friend’s Friday. For some living on campus, the lack of water was an inconvenience but others saw the outage as dangerous. Michael Albert, a sophomore in computer science, was one such student.
“[The outage] made it harder to do anything bathroom-related and made staying hydrated really difficult,” he said. “Luckily, I had a gallon of water that I could use to stay hydrated. I think the school probably handled it as well as they could have.”
Many students echoed Clark’s concerns, but did not notice that the outage affected them that much. Hannah Walters, a freshman majoring in graphic design, expressed such feelings about the outage.
“It wasn’t that big a deal,” she said. “I couldn’t wash dishes or shower for a day or two, but other than that it was no big deal.”
While many UTC students dealt with the outage and moved on, some students saw the outage as an example of UTC’s need to reform their alert systems. Bailey Wisniewski, a sophomore in early childhood and special needs education, said she did not follow the boil advisory and reported being fine. However, she expressed the need for reform, citing the active shooter event in August as an example of poor communication.
“The school needs to work on everything to do with informing students,” she said. “As we saw from the lockdown the other week, they need to seriously fix how they handle situations. They should have supplied more food to students during the outage. I couldn’t afford to buy from POD every day. They need to understand the needs of students during these times.”
Despite UTC and surrounding areas being without water for three days, Tennessee American Water has lifted the boil advisory and, as of Sept. 15, reported all water is safe to drink. UTC and local businesses can return to their regular activities. Maintenance to replace pipes in the area is set to continue in the coming weeks.
For more information about boil advisory standards, visit amwater.com