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Water is starting to flow again in downtown Atlanta after the outage that started Friday

By JEFF AMY – Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Water pressure returned Sunday in downtown Atlanta and nearby neighborhoods after a two-day water outage shut down businesses and left taps dry at many homes.

Much of the city remained under orders to boil water before drinking it, but Mayor Andre Dickens said at a news conference late Saturday that one of the city’s two major water main breaks had been repaired.

The first-term Democratic mayor, who faces re-election in 2025, apologized again, even as residents continued to blast the city’s response. Among the critics: Megan Thee Stallion, whose Friday and Saturday night shows at downtown’s State Farm Arena were canceled.

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‘Call the mayor! All day long they tell us that we can perform,” the rapper said in a video she posted on Saturday.

The city said Dickens visited senior centers and other locations on Sunday to check on water supplies, while the city continued to distribute bottled water at some fire stations. The outage did not affect the entire city of 500,000 inhabitants; many areas on the north and south sides of Atlanta never lost water pressure or experienced boiling problems.

State Farm Arena management said Megan Thee Stallion’s Friday night show would take place on Sunday, while the Saturday show was moved to Monday.

Other downtown events took place as scheduled Sunday, including an Atlanta United soccer game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Centennial Olympic Park returned to its fountains, where children often splash in bathing suits.

Two affected hospitals said they were still providing bottled water to patients but said they were otherwise back to normal operations, with regular surgery schedules and appointments scheduled for Monday.

Commissioner Al Wiggins Jr. from the Department of Watershed Management told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that boil orders in some areas could be lifted Monday.

The problems started Friday morning where three major water pipes intersect just west of downtown. Wiggins said at a news conference on Saturday that at least some of the burst pipes were old and corroded. Because the pipes converged in a confined space, it was difficult to make repairs as only one worker at a time worked in the manhole that accessed the intersection. The repairs were completed Saturday evening, officials said.

Another water main later burst in the city’s Midtown neighborhood, which is dotted with new office, hotel and apartment towers. Wiggins said Saturday that officials were not yet sure why that pipe broke. That leak continued to flow through the city’s streets on Sunday. City officials said Saturday they were working on ways to isolate the leak from the larger water system and were waiting for a part needed to repair the pipe. Dickens declared a state of emergency so that the city could purchase materials and hire workers without following normal purchasing laws.

Faltering infrastructure is a common story in older parts of American cities. Atlanta has spent billions in recent years modernizing its aging sewer and water infrastructure, including a tunnel bored through 5 miles of deep bedrock to supply the city with more than 30 days of stored water. Last month, voters approved continuing a 1-cent sales tax to pay for federally mandated sewer improvements. The city once routinely dumped untreated sewage into creeks and the Chattahoochee River.

City workers spent much of Saturday handing out water and setting up portable toilets at several fire stations while checking on seniors living in high-rise housing.

Officials were widely criticized for being slow to inform citizens of the situation. The city and its water management department sent an update after 8 p.m. on Friday and waited more than twelve hours to inform residents again. Dickens did not address the media until 2:00 PM on Saturday, explaining that he was in Memphis, Tennessee when the problem started.

Someone in the affected area posted flyers nearby asking, “Don’t have water?” and “Help us find our mayor.”

Some attractions and businesses, including the Georgia Aquarium, reopened Sunday, although the aquarium warned that the boil water order meant no ice or fountain drinks would be available in the cafeteria.

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