ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA)- Over 38,000 people in Asheville have been looking for answers as to why they have been without water for days. At a press conference, city officials explained for the first time what happened and what’s being done to fix it.
Sitting on Haywood Road in Asheville is the root of the city’s biggest problem right now, the Mills River Water Treatment Plant.
After the system went offline days ago, it sparked what is now the long waiting process city residents endured to regain access to water.
“For this to happen it was kind of a surprise, I would have expected the city and the mountains to be more prepared for cold weather,” said John Nicolay, a resident with no water.
But the water outages came as a surprise to city officials too, as they said the facility creating the problem wasn’t considered necessary.
“When it went offline it was not of immediate concern because the system has been able to be sustained without it for long periods of time,” said Asheville Mayor, Esther Manheimer. “In fact council wasn’t even made aware because it wasn’t considered an emergency situation on December 24.”
With the issue coming as a surprise, the process of solving it began late, leaving the issue to worsen.
“Compounding that issue we had private side systems where no one was there because it was a holiday so they might not have even been aware that they had a break in the system, so what that meant for the water system was that it was seeing levels that surpass even a high usage moment in the system,” said Manheimer.
Along with other businesses in the areas that are affected, the Asheville Regional Airport is taking matters into its own hands.
“How were we going to be able to take care of our passengers?” said Tina Kinsey, Spokesperson. “So we were able to secure a number of portable toilets and we had them delivered here as quickly as possible so that we could have those available for passengers but also the hundreds of employees that work at the airport.”
While the city slowly turned the water treatment plant back online today for those most in need, some residents still left the press conference feeling unsure.
“I still, even after today, have the impression that I’m not sure the city fully understands what the problem is.”
As crews work around the clock, water director David Melton advised those who are not impacted to be prepared.
“A caution to our customers in the west as we do this you may have periods of low water pressure or no water pressure at all,” said David Melton, director of water. “This is due to the complexity of our water system.”
Moving forward the city of Asheville said they are looking to upgrade their system so they can prevent this from happening again.