Water lines break in Conyers, Covington

CONYERS — Temperatures apparently heated up just enough Tuesday afternoon to wreak havoc on water lines throughout the area.

Conyers Police Department Officer Kim Lucas said police and Rockdale County fire personnel responded Tuesday afternoon to a spate of broken water lines that could cause problems on the roadways, particularly as the water spilling from the pipes turned to ice on the road.

“Our biggest concern right now is at (Ga. Highway) 138 and Flat Shoals Road,” Lucas said Tuesday afternoon. “Officers got the water shut off, but not before there was standing water on the right southbound lane of 138.”

According to Terrell Gibbs, deputy director of Rockdale Water Resources, the sprinkler system line ruptured at the McDonald’s located at that intersection.

Temperatures Tuesday never rose above freezing and they were expected to dip into the teens Tuesday night, meaning the standing water quickly turned to ice. Lucas said officers were spreading sand and salt on the ice, but still urged drivers to exercise caution if they should see any standing water.

“If you see what appears to be water on the roadway, treat it as if it’s a patch of ice, because it likely is,” she said.

Gibbs said Rockdale Water Resources responded to a broken 6-inch main on Milstead Avenue in the Northside Drive/College Avenue area Tuesday. Gibbs said the water line break did not affect Rockdale Medical Center, but approximately 75 homes in the area were without water.

“That break was reported right after lunch and at that time the approximate time for it to be down was about five hours,” Gibbs said.

In addition to the broken waterlines along roadways, emergency officials were also responding to a number of businesses with ruptured water pipes. In some instances, such as at Morningside of Conyers and the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boys & Girls Club, roofs were caving in due to water pipes breaking. Lucas said a water line broke in the front lawn of Rockdale Medical Center, and Horizon Extended Stay hotel also reported problems Tuesday.

“The calls were coming in as fire calls because sprinklers and water lines were flowing with water, triggering fire alarms,” she said.

Gibbs said RWR responded to a number of calls from customers who needed emergency assistance to shut off their water due to breaks inside their homes or on their property. He said his department is poised to “be as responsive as we possibly can” to aid residents.

By 4 p.m., Lucas said most of the calls had slowed down. However, as temperatures climb again Wednesday and later into the week, officials are bracing for another round of issues, she said.

The frigid weather also created some damage for the city of Covington and residents around Newton County.

Covington Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Tony Smith said reports of water breaks began around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“As pipes start thawing out as the weather warms up, the pipes begin expanding and breaking,” Smith said.

He said three residents called to a report flooding from broken water pipes, but the majority affected by the frozen and ruptured water pipes were commercial businesses.

Ashton Hills Golf Course and the Garden of Gesthemane homeless shelter on Turner Lake Road experienced flooding on Tuesday.

“The course will be closed for a few days until it can have the pipes repaired,” Smith said. “The homeless shelter on Turner Lake Road also flooded with about 2 inches of water in the women’s building. We responded to help get the water out and they’re still in the process of drying it out and getting back to normal so they can house people tonight.”

Smith’s best advice for residents and business owners was to be aware of how to cut off the water system which will prevent flooding if there are ruptured pipes.

Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said they received a report of a broken water line on West Street around 4 p.m. Monday and repaired it by 7 p.m. Bouchillon also said a few residents around Covington reported experiencing no water on Tuesday due to frozen pipes which can result in broken pipes.

Newton County Water and Sewer Authority Executive Director Mike Hopkins said within an hour Tuesday afternoon about 10 people had called to report broken water pipes in their houses. Hopkins said if that’s the result for residents to call the Water and Sewer Authority and they can be given advice on how to shut off the water line.

Gibbs noted that the best recommendation to prevent ruptured pipes is to leave water dripping.

“I’m expecting to get more calls about private-side issues,” he said. “We recommend if you live in a home where your water pipes are not insulated and it is going to drop below freezing, we recommend that you leave the water dripping.”