LUMBERTON — Lumberton officials hope to be able to drain enough water around the city’s flooded water plant in a few days to be able to get inside the facility. In the meantime, they are trying to the connect the city’s dried-up lines to county water.
Water in the city of Lumberton was cut off after a river intake pump west of Interstate 95 failed and the water plant was shut down when a generator there failed. The plant has been too flooded to get back online.
According to City Manager Wayne Horne, pumps were able to drain about 6 inches of water around the plant Thursday using four 18-inch pumps. En route to the effort are an 8-inch pump and a 30-inch pump, which can pump 40,000 gallons of water per minute, increasing the city’s ability to remove water from the area. Horne said he hopes enough water will be drained from around the plant in about four days for crews to get in the facility and begin the process of restoring to operation.
Crews have already surveyed the facility by boat, looking to see what equipment is damaged and have been ordering replacement parts.
“We’re trying to have everything in place so in a few days when we get the water down, we can start working,” he said.
According to U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers experts have been assigned to help with repairs at the water plant and two EPA experts have been assigned help with chemical balance at the water plant once water recedes.
Horne and Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis said the city is also attempting to tap into the county’s water system, which is functioning but has several leaks as a result of road washouts.
The city on Friday was testing whether connecting the systems would produce proper pressure to get some water supply into Lumberton as a temporary solution. As a result of the testing, some water may be available is scattered locations, including off of N.C. 72. Residents who do get water are being advised to boil it before drinking or using it.
Davis cautioned that this water would not be potable, not because the county’s water isn’t safe, but because it has traveled through city lines that have dried up.
“We are optimistic that we can have water service in a few weeks. However, we are anticipating an earlier date. We are trying everything possible, every avenue to get water back sooner,” Davis said.
Water has been restored to most county residents and residents in the town limits of Fairmont, Pembroke, St. Pauls, Red Springs, Maxton and Rowland have water. None are under boil advisories.
Residents can get bottled water and MRE’s at 14 countywide points of distribution each day from 2 to 6 p.m. as supplies last.
The sites are: Allenton Fire Department, 6815 N.C. 211 East, Lumberton; East Howellsville Fire Department, 1000 Pridgen Road, Lumberton; Lumber Bridge Fire Department, 303 W. Main St., Lumber Bridge; Pembroke Fire Department, 201 Main St., Pembroke; Prospect Fire Department, 4345 Prospect Road, Maxton; Raft Swamp Fire Department, 2809 N.C. 72 West, Lumberton; Deep Branch Fire Department, 3129 Deep Branch Road, Lumberton; Evans Crossroads Fire Department, 3440 Elrod Road, Maxton; Queheel Fire Department, 108 East Rockingham Road, Maxton; Rennert Fire Department, 9896 Rennert Road, Shannon; Saddletree Fire Department, 76 Rozier Church Road, Lumberton; Northwoods Fire Department, 344 Sherwood Road, Lumberton; Parkton Fire and Rescue, 2704 W. Parkton Tobemory Road, Parkton; and Fairmont Fire Department, 421 S. Main St., Fairmont.
The city of Lumberton is distributing water in the parking lot of Cakes and Pastries, 701 Farringdom St., as well as other sites as volunteers and supplies are available. The Farringdom Street site is an ongoing distribution point.
Matthew knocked out power for almost all Robeson residents. As of Friday evening, about 7,400 Duke Energy customers and about 1,000 Lumbee River EMC customers were without power in Robeson. Outages are scattered where damage has been done to lines.
Sarah Willets can be reached on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.