Community collaboration amidst water crisis in Stoney Creek

Published 12:30 pm Monday, January 22, 2024

By Robert Sorrell
Star Correspondent

Residents in the Stoney Creek community of Carter County have been dealing with water outages in recent days, but several individuals and organizations have come together to help.

On Sunday, the First Utility District of Carter County said crews were working to locate any leaks and repair them. Representatives from the utility district, which provides water for Stoney Creek and surrounding areas, also asked customers who have water to conserve it and look for any possible leaks.

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“We are also asking customers who are continually letting their water run to please contain it to only a drip,” the utility district officials stated on its website Sunday. “The demand of water on the system is not allowing our water storage tanks to fill. We are working around the clock in attempt to restore water to all our service customers.”

The utility first began reporting on water issues on Friday due to leaks and excessive usage, which led to a loss of pressure in the distribution system. As a result, the utility said there was a high potential of fecal contamination or other disease-causing organisms that could enter the distribution system. The utility asked customers to boil water.

Customers without water or very low water pressure were invited Sunday to visit the TLC Community Center in Elizabethton, which is located at 145 Judge Don Lewis Boulevard in Elizabethton. The center distributed water, a hot meal and provided access to showers to customers in need from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Angie Odom, who operates the community center, said the facility will be open Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Billy Harrell, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said a shower trailer was made available at the TLC Community Center, as well as water distribution for the affected residents.

Harrell said the trailer, a Homeland Security asset, was housed at the Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department, and it was delivered to Stoney Creek with the help of the Unicoi County Emergency Management Agency.

“For the people in Stoney Creek that has limited water pressure, they can come and take a hot shower,” Harrell said. “It also has a washer and dryer in it, in case someone needs to wash their clothes. The trailer is on loan for as long as we should need it.”

With rising temperatures and rain, the need for drinking water and the trailer could still be a possibility through the week, Harrell said.

“I didn’t know how bad the water issues were until this morning,” Odom said on Sunday.

After learning that more than 1,000 homes were without water and 386 homes had been affected by leaks, Odom said she began gathering resources to help.

Throughout the day, local businesses stepped in to help at the center, including B&G Lawn Care, which cleared the parking lot, and Walmart, which provided two pallets of water.

Odom said additional water was retrieved from Morristown for local residents.

“Everyone just said they needed water,” Odom said.

In addition to water and showers, the center also provided residents with a shower on Sunday.

Many residents now need plumbers to fix leaks, Odom said.

“We’re going to be here as long as we’re needed,” Odom said.

A number of other businesses, churches and citizens also helped in the community on Sunday to provide water and assistance.

Brandon Austin Taylor, owner of the Magnolia Hair Studio, shared on Facebook that the salon would provide a free shampoo for anyone without water.

“I know it’s not a shower but I figured it may help some people,” Taylor wrote.

By Monday morning, Taylor said a few people had shown interest in the free shampoo and would be coming to the salon on Highway 91 in the next couple days.

“I’m so glad people are coming together,” Taylor said.

Unaka Baptist Church in Stoney Creek also opened its doors to the public on Sunday.

A church member said the church fellowship hall was open and residents were welcome to bring jugs to fill. Showers were also available.

If anyone needs help, church members Ben Dement and his wife Christy said they can contact them at 423-76-3116 or 423-765-8690 for water or a shower.

Carter County and surrounding areas of Tennessee have experienced frigid cold temperatures and heavy snowfall this week, which led to frozen pipes and leaks.

Temperatures are expected to stay above freezing this week, but the National Weather Service reports that rain is in the forecast from Tuesday night through the weekend. Flooding is possible, meteorologists said Monday.