SWANSBORO, N.C. (WNCT) – Swansboro Middle School was closed Thursday due to a water main break.

Officials said due to the impacts of not having water to support essential functions of the school, including toilets, chillers, and food service operations, and the estimated length of time needed for repairs, SBMS will have a remote instruction day for students on Thursday.

Online classes begin at 7:38 a.m. This closure only applied to Swansboro Middle School.

ONWASA CEO Jeff Hudson told 9OYS’ Claire Curry the break occurred along a 15-foot section of water main along NC Hwy. 24.

“Thankfully, the main was not underneath the roadway, but rather under the sidewalk alongside the road,” Hudson said in a press release. A timeline of the event was also included.

  • 1:05AM:  sensors in the Swansboro elevated water tank show loss of water.  ONWASA’s 24-hour system control center verifies problem.
  • 1:20AM:  ONWASA Distribution Division is notified of verified problem in Swansboro.
  • 2:35AM:  Distribution crews arrive in Swansboro and begin search for main break.
  • 3:00AM:  Main break has been located and that section valves off.  Emergency locator service contacted thereafter.
  • 5:30AM:  Emergency locator service arrives on scene to locate underground power, fiber optic cables, other utilities so that excavation may begin.
  • 9:55AM:  Water line repair has been completed with flushing beginning and pipe repressurizes.

The break occurred immediately above a large underground stormwater pipe that is not owned by ONWASA.  The 8-inch pressurized water main split along its length.  Around 500,000 gallons of potable water escaped prior to water main cutoff.

While the exact cause of the split is unknown, its proximity to the stormwater pipe may have contributed to the main break.  ONWASA replaced that section of line with a more modern, stronger length of pipe and used modern repair couplings to connect it quickly to the water system.

Unlike utilities with above-ground infrastructure, ONWASA crews routinely handle unknown underground situations and variables.  Water utility infrastructure is, of course, mainly buried deep underground.  There was no way a main break could have been predicted at this location.

ONWASA regrets any inconvenience to the customers the main break caused.  To keep the public, the Onslow County School System, and the Town of Swansboro notified ONWASA personnel began immediate updates to the ALERTS section of the utility’s website (ONWASA.com) and sent direct calls to all customers in the affected area.  In addition, text updates were sent to school and town officials.

ONWASA is extremely proud of the line technicians, control center operators, and staff that worked this situation this morning.  And we thank the public for their understanding as we conducted emergency operations.

By separate email I am sending pictures of the main repairs.  In one of the pictures you can clearly see the break in the section of white (legacy) water main.  Other pictures show ONWASA Line Technicians removing the old line and replacing it with a new (blue) length of high-strength water main.

At this time, the work is complete and the worksite has been filled.

As is normal in any main break, a precautionary boil water advisory has been issued.  We anticipate this precautionary advisory to be effective for 24-48 hours.  We will directly notify customers through our calling system and on our website once the precautionary advisory has been lifted.