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Atlanta officials say water repairs are done after 5 days of outages and service is being restored

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ATLANTA (AP) — City of Atlanta officials say workers finished repairs on a ruptured water main on Tuesday and that water problems in the city are coming to an end after five days.

The city said Tuesday night that workers had placed new pipes after a leak that sent a gushing river into the streets of the city’s Midtown neighborhood. Officials said water had been restored to a bar and a hotel immediately adjoining the leak and that they were gradually increasing pressure in the system.

They predicted normal pressure would return by Wednesday morning, although an order to boil water before drinking remained in place in downtown, Midtown and areas to the east.

“Making progress,” Mayor Andre Dickens told reporters at the site of the ruptured pipe. “(I’m) so ready for this to be over. So are the residents around here.”

By Monday afternoon, the area under the boil-water advisory was sharply reduced after pressure was restored in many areas following Saturday’s repair of the first mammoth leak, west of downtown.

Water was shut off Tuesday only in the blocks immediately surrounding that repair site. But some hotels, offices and residences in high-rise buildings across a broader area were still affected. Lower water pressure in the system means toilets wouldn’t flush on higher floors and some air conditioning systems wouldn’t operate normally.

Norfolk Southern Corp. partially closed its headquarters building about eight blocks from the repair site. The state of Georgia’s office complex downtown was still experiencing low pressure and discolored water, but Gerald Pilgrim, the deputy executive director of the Georgia Building Authority, said “all systems are functioning at safe levels.”

“We know results are mixed here in terms of buildings and the experience with water service, water pressure,” said Brian Carr, a spokesperson for the Midtown Alliance, which promotes development in the Atlanta district.

Many residents are frustrated with the pace of repairs. Officials have provided no estimates of how many residents are still affected or how many were affected at peak.

“In all my life, I’ve never seen a situation like this,” Chris Williams, a Midtown resident, said Tuesday. “This is a pretty big city and this is kind of giving small city vibes. … Why couldn’t it have been figured out earlier, and how can we not inform more?”

Dickens, a first-term Democratic mayor, has faced criticism for being out of town and slow to communicate after the first leak began. Dickens left Friday and stayed overnight in Memphis, Tennessee, to raise funds for his 2025 reelection campaign. He said the extent of problems weren’t clear when he left.

Spokesperson Michael Smith said Dickens met with Memphis Mayor Paul Young and other leaders, and that he was in “constant communication” with Atlanta officials before returning Saturday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it was deploying people at Dickens’ request to conduct a thorough assessment of the city’s water system.

Col. Matthew McCulley, the deputy commander of the South Atlantic Division told WXIA-TV that engineers from the Corps’ Savannah, Georgia, and Mobile, Alabama, districts would assess what aid city officials need, with the aim of “looking at that whole infrastructure within Atlanta.”

Atlanta’s water outages are the latest failures as cities across the country shore up faltering infrastructure. A 2022 crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, which has a long-troubled water system, left many residents without safe running water for weeks. Other cities including Flint, Michigan, have also struggled to supply residents with safe drinking water.

Atlanta voters support improvements: Last month, they approved continuing a 1-cent sales tax to pay for water and sewer improvements. The city that dumped untreated sewage into creeks and the Chattahoochee River until ordered to stop by a federal court has spent billions to upgrade its aging sewer and water systems, even drilling a tunnel through 5 miles (8 kilometers) of rock to store more than 30 days of water.

The latest troubles began Friday when a junction of three water mains sprang a massive leak west of downtown. Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Al Wiggins Jr. has said that leak was caused by corrosion and was tricky to repair because the three pipes created a confined space for work.

Wiggins said city workers still aren’t sure why the Midtown leak began hours later, but it too was difficult to fix because it happened at a junction of two large water pipes, and the valve to turn them off was inaccessible under the gushing liquid.

By JEFF AMY and SHARON JOHNSON
Associated Press

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