DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond promised a “full-scale” investigation into a major water main break on Buford Highway early March 7 that resulted in school and government closings as well as many business closings throughout the county.

A picture of the damage when a 48-inch water main in Doraville broke early March 7, flooding Buford Highway for hours and resulting in DeKalb schools and some businesses to close. (City of Chamblee)

“The DeKalb County government will initiate a full-scale investigation into the cause of today’s massive water main break. We will determine whether the break was the result of a systematic failure, improper maintenance, wear and tear or physical tampering,” Thurmond said in a statement. “I am committed to making sure our infrastructure is protected and maintained in a manner that will ensure quality service to the citizens of DeKalb County.”

The water main break resulted in water outages and low water pressure for many hours throughout DeKalb County. A boil water advisory implemented March 7 could last several days, according to DeKalb Watershed officials.

Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal said he could only shave this morning with a pencil-thin stream of water. The decision to close Dunwoody City Hall today came after a press conference this morning when DeKalb officials said the repair was going to take at least 24 hours. He also noted the water main break affected many local businesses.

“The schools closed, most businesses closed, which is not good,” he said. Perimeter Mall, where dozens of businesses and restaurants operate, were closed today due to the water main break.

“We are standing by with fingers crossed that we will all be back in business tomorrow,” Shortal said.

Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody was forced to shut down, affecting dozens of businesses.

“Other than for weather-related issues, this has never happened during my three years as general manager [of Perimeter Mall],” Bill Baker said.

“The safety and well-being is always of the utmost importance for our guests and retailers. We had no water pressure which meant that we were not able to properly operate the food court and restaurants or flush toilets,” Baker explained. “Additionally, the lack of water pressure would have compromised our sprinkler system in the event of a fire emergency.”

Baker said after speaking with DeKalb officials, the mall is expected to be open during regular hours on Thursday after it is expected the water lines to be repaired and normal pressure restored.

As for the cost to Perimeter Mall that is forced to close for one day? Baker said he is not able to provide that information.

Doug McKendrick, owner of McKendrick’s Steak House in Dunwoody, said he was forced to close lunch and dinner service today and estimates the business lost probably $20,000. He said he is not sure if the restaurant will open tomorrow.

“We may lose tomorrow,” he said. “This is absolutely very, very hurtful.”

Hourly employees who showed up to work got $20 from McKendrick to compensate somewhat for not being able to work. “They did show up. A lot of them don’t have cars, or take MARTA, so this was just something to help cover transportation to get home,” McKendrick said. “They deserved it. This hurts the owner, but also the staff.”

But with a boil water advisory in effect, McKendrick said he and other area restaurants, such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, shut their doors today.

“You don’t really have an option. You have to do it,” he said. McKendrick said his restaurant got rid of all of its ice to ensure no bad water could be consumed.

Linda Wright, owner of Wright’s Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe in The Shops of Dunwoody, said her business was slow for about an hour this morning due to no water.

“It slowed us up a bit. It’s hard to run a restaurant without a dishwasher,” she said. But water was restored at about 11 a.m., she said, and the business was able to recover and serve its sandwiches.

“We didn’t have soup, though. We were out of soup because we had no water,” she said. The restaurant received many calls from customers wanting to know if they were open, she added. “But it didn’t affect us much at all,” she said.

At There Gastropub in Town Brookhaven, a man answered the phone and said the water main break “slowed the business tremendously” today. The business was only serving bottled beer and mixed drinks using bottled sodas and bottled tonic water. No food was being served.

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst had no water at his home this morning to take a shower. “We had no water like everyone else,” he said.

“It’s a DeKalb issue,” he added. “We want a working system at all times, of course.”

Like many parents, Ernst said he took his children to school this morning but then had to go back to get them after DeKalb Schools announced they were closing early because of the water main break.

Water was working at his home late this afternoon, he said.

The 48-inch water main broke early Wednesday morning in the 5700 block of Buford Highway in Doraville and is expected to take at least 24 hours to fully repair. The county is finding ways to route the water around and water and water pressure is being restored.

DeKalb County closed its schools early today because of no water and low water pressure. Brookhaven City Hall and Dunwoody City Hall also closed early due to lack of water. While water pressure is being restored, the county is still under a boil water advisory. Schools are slated to open tomorrow.

Brookhaven City Hall is set to resume normal operations on Thursday, March 8, at 8:30 a.m., with the permits window opening at 7:30 a.m. as scheduled.

DeKalb officials reported Wednesday afternoon that water pressure has returned to all DeKalb County fire stations. Eight water tankers are still stationed throughout the county to assist with fire protection and to fill chillers at hospitals. The DeKalb County Emergency Operations Center remains open.

To ask more questions, call 770-270-6243 or check for updates.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.

12 replies on “DeKalb CEO Thurmond promises investigation into major water main break”

  1. Full scale investigation? 8 water main breaks in a year. Half of the county budget pays pensions and retiree healthcare. The DeKalb CEO position has a legacy of corruption with new allegations being leveled by resigning Water Department head. In 2010, the EPD decreed we need to spend $1.3B on sewers, but only $600 million has been spent with no new repairs.

    Yesterday’s water main break is the beginning of a long train of service failures that won’t end until DC issues an $800m bond to correct the water system, eliminates the pension system and the CEO position, but that won’t happen because County Administraion has neither the will, the aptitude nor the money.

    1. Taylor Bennett wanted to work on it, but we got “I’ll fix traffic” Meagan Henson instead.

      How is that whole traffic “fix” working out y’all?

      1. I recall as well that Democrat State Rep Taylor Bennett had an infrastructure plan, but nah the local Republicans needed to elect one of their own so that they could ensure the right of every tomfool-idiot in Georgia, no matter their age, could purchase an AR-15, enact discriminatory legislation against the LGBT community by preventing same-sex couples from adopting, and suppress the African American vote. Yep, that’s what’s important to Georgia’s Republicans – hate and guns, to them a safe and functioning infrastructure can be danged!

        1. And who controls Dekalb County? African Americans and Democrats. Only idiots would believe that Republicans are responsible for the mess.

          Democrats, you own this.

        2. And don’t forget the racist obsession with sticking it to Obama- Meagan Hanson has repeatedly called our former president a Muslim born in a Africa.

          Sadly that’s a great way to get votes around here.

          1. Yep, and since the advent of Donald Trump, they feel they can be even more overt – being out and out racist, not just relying on the dog-whistle politics of bigotry. But it’ll eventually hurt the GaGOP in their pocketbooks – Delta will eventually leave and Amazon will choose a more progressive state to establish their second headquarters.

  2. The younger generations see the hypocrisy behind the so-called evangelicals, so I’m not giving up hope.

    I agree with Stacy Abrams- we need to stop trying to change the ways of older GA Republicans- it’s not gonna happen- we need to focus our time and money on getting Democrats registered and out to vote.


  3. Amy, I didn’t prove your point because you made no point. You simply ramble on attacking republicans ALL the time, and consistently ignore hard cold facts when presented. Fact: the Democratic DeKalb County government is 100% responsible for decades of negligence and mismanagement of the water system. They own the mess.

    Another fact for Gary, the Democratic Party is nearly broke and millions of dollars in debt. the Republican party meanwhile is hauling in record donations and has zero debt.

    1. No doubt there is a lot of blame to go around- including slavery and Jim Crow laws if you want to be honest- the question is what are our reps in Brookhaven doing to fix this problem NOW?

      They say the solution to failing sewer and water lines is more development- right where there are major leak and flooding problems.

      I disagree.

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