KUB crews face weather delays in restoring water downtown

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Knoxville Utilities Board workers are working around the clock to repair a massive water main break downtown.

It's a project they say would normally take three weeks to complete. But they hope to have the pipe fixed by Monday.

Crews had to stop early Friday morning as severe weather rolled through the area. They returned to work around 11 a.m.

A Tracy Hayes, a pokesperson for KUB, told Local 8 News work will continue through the rain as long as working conditions are safe. But Hayes says as water starts to pool in the hole they'll have to pump it out, which will add delays to the project.

KUB says the 18-foot hole is in a busy spot with 12 utility lines running through, including electricity and traffic signals. It's one of the biggest water main breaks in the cities history.

Chris Cox, University of Tennessee engineering professor, says the break was so forceful because it serves the cities two tallest buildings. It has to push water all the way to the top floors, which is why it carries so much pressure.

These pipes, like most downtown, were installed in the 1920s. Hayes says KUB has a program in place to address this concern, called Century II.

"It's focused on identifying older pipes, aging infrastructure, we do a routine inspection of our valves, we do a routine leak detection survey, but there's just certain things you cannot predict," Hayes explained.

Five downtown customers are still without water, including the Riverview Tower. The tower has been without water and air conditioning since Wednesday night and several people who work in the area stayed home Friday.

KUB plans to have water restored and flowing again by Saturday. Once they get the pipes fixed, they'll work with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to begin repairing the roadway.

Hayes says in addition to filling the hole, they'll have to fix parts of State Street and Main Street where the road buckled from the break.

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