SALEMBURG — An early-morning water main break on Laurel Lake Road is currently impacting residents, schools and businesses throughout town.
Although Salemburg Public Works employees made repairs, water service will probably not return until Wednesday afternoon or later. The water will need to be tested by state officials for safety and consumption reasons. A boil water advisory is in effect.
Officials said problem was caused by low temperatures and frozen water, which later thawed. Mayor Joe Warren reported that a pipe busted at the Laurel Lakes Family Campground, which started it. Warren and town officials will not receive samples back until Wednesday afternoon and waiting to see what actions to take next, such as boil advisories. Salemburg’s water tank is now about half full.
“When Mother Nature hits like this, you just can’t help it,” Warren said. “There’s good people here and everybody is helping one another. We’re all going to work together and it’s going to be short-lived thing. It won’t last long.”
To help with the burden, the town provided cases of bottled water for residents at the Salemburg Municipal Building, 100 Methodist Drive. The cases came from the Christian Food Bank of Salemburg. Ray Monk was one of several people who took some home.
“We’re getting ready to deal with it,” he said. “We had a few bottles at the house, but it’s all gone now.”
Like others, resident Max Honeycutt found about the matter Tuesday morning. He turned his faucet on and no water came out. But he plans to get by with bottles and containers of water.
“You can’t help that it breaks,” Honeycutt said about having patience.
Town Clerk Juanita Faircloth and Utility Billing Clerk Marilyn Waters answered many calls throughout the day. Faircloth heard about the break at 5:30 a.m. and hopes that test results show a negative sign of coliform bacteria, a presence that the well water is contaminated with feces are sewage.
“For the most part, everybody understands that it’s weather related and it’s an act of God,” Faircloth said. “There’s nothing we can do about, other than make repairs as it happens.”
Schools throughout town were affected by the issue. Lakewood High School and Salemburg Elementary School (SES) closed their doors Tuesday morning because of the problem, and the North Carolina Justice Academy also canceled classes. After learning about the break, SES Principal Gerald Johnson sent a recorded message to parents shortly after 7 a.m.
“We had someone out front turning the buses around when they arrived on campus,” Johnson said. “When staff arrived on campus, we told them the situation and sent them back home.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy of Sampson County Schools were uncertain if the buildings would re-open.
“It’s just one of those things we’ll have to work through,” he said.
Updates will be posted on the district’s social media outlets such as Facebook or other online sources.
“It doesn’t look good right now,” Bracy said Tuesday after speaking with officials from the Town of Salemburg about the boil water advisory. “Any time you’re in that situation, it’s not an ideal place for kids to come to school.”
The Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy in Salemburg was another institution working around the problem. Retired Army Col. Edward Timmons, state director, reported that the school is operational. Bottled water and non-potable water was delivered to the campus.
“Our number one priority is always the safety, health and welfare of our cadets and the academy staff,” Timmons said.
Timmons added that the cadets are trained for situations such as storms and weather events such as Hurricane Matthew. The academy also adjusted its training schedule for cadets.
“The uniqueness of being a quasi-military is that we prepare them for having to deal with lifestyle changes in adverse ways,” he said. “Currently all 100 percent of life support systems are in place.”
A request was made for additional drinking water. The U.S. Army National Guard, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, will be delivering 500 gallons to the campus. If the situation continues longer than expected, Timmons said the National Guard will deliver water from Laurinburg.
“We will continue to function as a 24/7 operation as we’ve been doing so far,” Timmons said.
Updates about the situation will be provided on the town’s Facebook page, which can accessed by typing “Town of Salemburg” in the search bar.
“The Town of Salemburg is working as hard as we can to get the water back for our customers,” Waters said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.