published Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Workers to remove broken section of water main

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    Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tennessee American Water Co. workers have located a water main break that flooded the Southside on Wednesday and expect to begin repairs on Sunday. The work could take two to three weeks, a company spokeswoman says.

Water that was flowing like a river down Cowart Street last week has slowed to a trickle, and crews with Tennessee American Water are busy repairing the broken water main that flooded Chattanooga’s Southside district Wednesday and Thursday.

On Saturday afternoon, workers with Eslinger Construction operated a track excavator to remove the 36-inch concrete encasement surrounding the pipe. The machine’s giant shovel pounded and clawed at the concrete casing, scraping the debris off and dumping it into a truck bed.

The source of the leak has been located, although water company spokeswoman Kim Dalton said she couldn’t describe the nature of the break.

The digging site, about 8 feet deep and 40 feet long, is lined with mud, and a pump was diverting water into a flooded field behind the sidewalk — a field many business owners on the street are calling “Lake Cowart.”

The 24-inch main ruptured Wednesday morning when workers with Klein Enterprises, a subcontractor for AT&T, were drilling along Cowart Street to lay fiber-optic cable.

About 25 feet of the 60-foot-long pipe were exposed Saturday. Today workers will remove the broken segment to begin making repairs, Dalton said. A 20-foot-long steel trench box will be fitted into the pit to protect workers in case the sides of the trench collapse.

Dalton said the repairs could take two to three weeks.

“There’s a lot to gauge with the complexity of this job,” Dalton said. “It’s too early to say when we’ll be finished.”

The water company still has no damage estimates for lost water or repair costs. AT&T officials have said they will not be speaking about settlements until an investigation into the cause of the leak is completed.

Further down Cowart Street on Saturday, workers with Klein Enterprises were resuming their drill project and continuing to lay fiber-optic cable. They declined to comment.

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