HAMILTON, Ala. (WIAT) – Water treatment restarted Friday night in Hamilton after a broken dam on the Buttahatchee River left the water extremely muddy and polluted. Because the water was so dirty, the Hamilton Water Department had to cease water treatment for a day, putting the city in a state of emergency.
When the Buttahatchee River gets too polluted, the Hamilton Water Department isn’t able to clear it and treat it to be used throughout the city. This impacts not only people at home, but restaurants too.
“Polluted water is not a good thing. The sediment that came into the Buttahatchee was intense, it was terrible,” Hamilton Mayor Bob Page said.
Many restaurants in Hamilton closed early Friday and plan to stay closed Saturday because the city’s water treatment had to shut down for a day, resulting in water reserves running low.
“The restaurants in town, we all have to have fresh, clean water to stay within the health department’s regulations,” Danny Willis, owner of The Creamery + Marketplace, said.
“Whatever we can do to help, we want to be there to help our community. So, if we have to close we will, not a problem, and it’s all about making sure that everyone is taken care of,” Tonya Willis, owner of The Creamery + Marketplace, said.
For other restaurants like Elder’s Tacos and Steaks, they’re hoping to stay open as long as possible, having disposable plates and silverware ready and stocking up on bottled drinks.
“If continue going through Monday or Tuesday, we may not be able to operate and I have 9 employees over here that depend on this job,” Elder Maeda, owner of Elder’s Tacos and Steaks, said. “I have to be selling food to be able to pay them.”
Some people in the community say their houses were without water Friday so they haven’t been able to do simple tasks like taking showers. Despite struggles in their own home, one couple’s main concern isn’t for their own water returning.
“We work for a ministry and so we have about 140 first-year students here who live in our dorms downtown, so that’s really a concern for us,” Hamilton resident Leigh Smalley said.
Page says the sediment in the Buttahatchee River settled immensely throughout the day Friday.
“This is about 15,000 people that’s going to be affected. Not only the residents of Hamilton but our rural water customers also that we feed will be without water until we can get our pressure built back up,” Mayor Page said. “It is a true crisis, we’ve never faced this before.”
There will be water distribution sites for both bottled water and bulk water on Saturday morning starting at 8 a.m. The city says bulk water will be given out at the Hamilton Recreation Center and people must bring their own container.
The city will be giving out bottled water at the DOT Testing Site on Buccaneer Street. The city says it will continue until supplies run out.
For more information on the water crisis, visit the City of Hamilton’s Facebook page.