Boil water advisory lifted for York County after 70-year-old pipe breaks

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The boil water advisory has been lifted for York County after a massive water main break Wednesday at a Rock Hill water treatment plant.

A 20-inch water main break at the Rock Hill water filter plant on Cherry Road caused low water pressure and, in some cases, no water for 125,000 residents in York County, according to city officials.

Around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, crews were able to expose the broken pipe and could begin making repairs. Those repairs were completed around 1 a.m. Thursday, and the plant was up and running by 3 a.m.

Officials said the cast iron pipe that broke was put into the ground in 1949 and was scheduled to be replaced in 18 months.

"This was not worker negligence. This was not contractor driven. This was not anything other than an old pipe that's been under the ground since 1949," Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys said.

Crews had to flush the lines and test the water. They then started filling elevated water tanks Thursday afternoon and took samples throughout the system to monitor water quality.

"We will not lift that advisory until the experts, the Department of Health and Environmental Control, says that everyone is safe," Gettys said.

Those results were completed until Friday afternoon, and the water was deemed safe.

Luigi's and Sons is an institution on Cherry Road and was open Friday.

The lifting of the boil order comes as a relief to the family-owned business.

"It's just been crazy,” owner Tommaso Rizzo said. “It's a lot more work, really what it is, and business is just slower because people are afraid to go out."

John and Carol Sittema threw a dinner party Thursday night for members of their church family in the Riverwalk community.

"Having to wash everything by hand kind of added a lot more time than I estimated,” Carol Sittema said.

Channel 9 learned the water main break caused 30 million gallons of water to be lost and completely shut down the treatment plant.

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"This is the first time this has happened in the city of Rock Hill's history, and we don't want a second," Gettys said.

A boil water advisory was issued for the entire county because the city of Rock Hill sells its water to other York County municipalities.

The city also asked residents to reduce water usage while crews work to fix the problem.

“There’s a lot of basic needs I can’t do at home like skincare routine, showering, teeth brushing, dishwashing, laundry,” high school student Allie Waterhouse said.

Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the plant and muddy water could be seen flowing across the parking lot and flooding nearby roads.

Cherry Road was shut down near Mount Gallant Road as crews worked to shut off the water and repair the break.

On Thursday morning, officials said the lanes of Cherry Road heading southbound were open.

Officials said they asked all York County school districts to close Thursday.

Schools across York County were back in session Friday.

Friday school plans: 

  • Fort Mill Schools said all schools and facilities will be on a normal schedule Friday. All water fountains will be closed. The cafeterias will operate under the boil water protocols, and a modified food menu will also be used. The district plans to supply bottled water to all facilities and the restrooms will be operational.
  • Rock Hill Schools said it will be on a normal schedule Friday, including after-school activities. Water fountains will be closed and covered, and food services will follow boil water protocols. School officials are encouraging students to bring a sealed bottle of water to school. Bottles of water will be available and all restrooms will be operational.

Winthrop University posted on Twitter that classes are canceled for the rest of the week and warned students that it may be a while before the water on campus returns to normal.

Clinton College has also canceled classes until Friday and said midterm exams will be rescheduled.

Piedmont Medical Center canceled all outpatient surgeries and other procedures Thursday but the hospital was still operational.

Atrium Health said all its locations in Rock Hill and Fort Mill are closed Thursday and Friday.

All nonessential York County Government Offices and State government offices were closed Thursday.

Fort Mill Parks and Rec said all practices and games were canceled through Thursday. Officials said all town park restrooms are closed until further notice.

Businesses had to close early Wednesday due to not having any water and people had cleared the shelves at stores as they stocked up on water.

"I can't drink water at home. I have to boil water for my dog to drink. I got to go to a friend's house to take a shower. I can't brush my teeth with water. It's a lot," said resident Anita Gilbert.

Officials said there was construction going on at the plant, but they do not believe it caused the water main to burst.

Rock Hill restaurant opens despite citywide boil water advisory

The water main break in York County Wednesday forced several businesses to remain closed Thursday, but one Rock Hill restaurant was determined to open.

Channel 9's Gin Esposito stopped by the Famous Toastery where employees were busy taking orders.

Amiee McLeod was there for breakfast.

"We walk in and it's like, 'Um, we’re not serving water. We have juice.' So they list a thing of juices, and we’re like 'OK,'" McLeod said.

She opted for the juice, but added some Champagne.

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The restaurant wasn't serving coffee or tea because of the citywide boil water advisory, but was still able to serve most of its menu.

Alex Bowne, with the Famous Toastery, told Channel 9 the waffle mix was made the day before.

He said the grits were the only item that posed a challenge, and they handled that.

"Precaution for the grits. We boil them to a certain temperature (to) make sure (the) water is actually clean," Browne said. "You make it with cheese grits, (and) mix it around."

According to Brown, employees are taking proper precautions to make sure people don't get sick.

"Someone went and bought bottled water, so we can serve water," Browne said. "Because the ice is still good from the night before, the day before, so any new fresh ice we can take out."

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Employees could also be seen using massive pots of boiled water to wash their hands and clean dishes, silverware and glasses.​​​​​​

"Its unfortunate, it sucks, but hopefully everything will bounce back by the next couple of days."

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