Americans, for the most part, are fortunate to have reliable access to drinkable water. However, what happens when there is no water? Problems, such as water main breaks, can significantly impact a community and the local water supply, especially when the break occurs on a 36-inch water main in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.
More than 35,000 customers had either little or no water for 36 to 70 hours along with a boil advisory that lasted five days. There is now an investigation into the cause of the historic break, although Tennessee American Water Company officials have not officially reported the cause. While the city has no authority over the water company, Mayor Andy Berke said that he wants to meet with Tennessee American leaders to better understand the outage and its impact to the city. According to Richel Albright, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, the outage was “the most widespread and prolonged that veterans at City Hall can remember.”
Aside from the obvious hardship to residents who had to find alternative sources for drinking water, the water outage will be an economic blow to the city. It has been estimated that approximately 100 restaurants and 30 hotels were affected by the outage. Restaurants were forced to close their doors, hotels had to shift guests and not accept reservations, and the county government shut down.
As a result of the outage, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Tennessee American Water Company. Lee Davis, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuit stated, “This was an incident that happened because a water company failed to report their line.” They assert the break was not the result of a natural catastrophe but that the company neglected the pipeline for decades leading to the current situation.
In the coming weeks, the costs will continue to accumulate not only for the community but also for Tennessee American Water Company. The utility company will have to regain the trust of local government and the community in addition to the economic costs of infrastructure repairs. The big question for Tennessee American Water Company is what they do to keep an infrastructure failure of this magnitude from happening again.
 Pare, Mike. “Tennessee American Water to Begin Probe into Chattanooga Main Break; ‘No Obvious Cause,’ Official Says.” Timesfreepress.com, 17 Sept. 2019, www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2019/sep/16/water-boil-advisory-lifted-for-nearly-all-chattanooga-service-areas/503676/.
 WTVC. “Class Action Lawsuit Filed against Tennessee American Water after Massive Water Main Break.” WTVC, 17 Sept. 2019, newschannel9.com/news/local/class-action-lawsuit-filed-against-tennessee-american-water-after-massive-water-main-break.
Photo Credit: Shutterfly