A planned boil advisory over the weekend had Asheville residents and business owners scrambling for bottled water.
The City maintains that the disruption was clearly communicated, as part of the ongoing upgrades to the transition line near the North Fork Dam.
But a few local restaurants say their sales took a hit.
For restaurant owner Jacob Sessoms, the weekend was a bit more frenzied than usual.
“A lot of driving around finding bottled water, and buying ice, draining ice makers, making sure the ice that was in use had been made prior to the contamination, etcetera.”
Like many Asheville residents, Sessoms received an automated call from the City Sat. alerting of the boil advisory. The call says: “While this is not expected to result in an outage, it may result in lower pressure, discolored water, and air in the water lines.”
Sessoms says the language was “too vague,” he didn’t know what to expect — and it didn’t give him enough lead time to prepare for what are typically the busiest nights at his seated restaurants, Table and Cultura. He estimates he spent about $500 on bottled water and the loss of labor cost about $1,500. He says his sales records show Veterans Day weekend is typically among the top four or five grossing weekends out of the year.
“It just seemed like a very bad choice, that maybe a Tuesday morning at 5am would have been a better choice than a Saturday night at 5pm.” Sessoms said.
But the City says its Water Resources Department did take into consideration the impact to local customers, to include Mission Hospital, Ashevile’s Independent Restaurants Association and the Brewers Alliance. It also didn’t want to impact schools. City spokeswoman Polly McDaniel sent out a press release on Oct. 30 warning of the upcoming disruption.
“We posted multiple times on both Twitter and Facebook almost daily, in addition to sending an all-system AVL Alert Monday morning, an all-system AVL Alert Friday... and Saturday," McDaniel said.
AVL Alert is the automated call system, which residents can sign up for on the City’s website.
"If people just aren't signed up for the system and not checking our social media and not tuning into local media, I don’t know what more we can do," McDaniel said.
West of town in the River Arts District, Camp Boswell, who owns Broth Lab, says at the very least, he’d appreciate a little more human interaction.
"Talking to a person who understands what’s happening so I can ask questions and get clarification would be huge," Boswell said.
He also received an automated call the Friday before the boil advisory. His water wasn’t affected Saturday.
“But Sunday, where I wasn’t anticipating an issue because of the way the call had phrased things, it seemed Saturday would be the day,” Boswell said. “But then I came in Sunday, and the water looked like it was coming out of the French Broad River.”
Meaning, it was brown, with sediment. As the name suggests, Broth Lab serves soupy entrees that require about 20 gallons of water to prepare. Boswell that much water is too pricey to purchase, so he closed the restaurant on Sunday. In addition to the holiday weekend, it was also the annual Studio Stroll in the Arts District. Boswell estimates he lost about $3,000 in sales, based on Saturday’s turnout. He says he would have liked to have been considered for input in the project planning.
“A business like me could have said, “hey, Studio Stroll is that weekend, that is one of the biggest weekends for the River Arts District, could you guys even consider another weekend?,’” Boswell said. “Where there could be some dialogue back and forth, rather than being told ‘this is happening, deal with it.’”
The weekend’s planned boil advisory is one of the last for the North Fork Waterline Bypass Project Installation. Water Resources Director David Melton the past weekend's disruption was "a huge win" compared to earlier installations on the project because his department received fewer complaints. Melton says fewer than 50 people called.
"We welcome the feedback," Melton said.
The next one is Nov. 22, and the Water Resources Department says it’s anticipated to mostly affect customers in the Black Mountain area.