UPDATE: Friday evening
(WBIR-Knoxville) At a press conference Friday afternoon, KUB officials called it the largest, most complex water main break it has ever dealt with, as crews continue to work around the clock, in 12-hour shifts.
"We do worry about fatigue as they get into that 11th hour, so we have extra folks here so they can take breaks when they need to," said Brooke Sinclair, the construction site safety manager. "I think the bigger issue here is we need to take our time and we have to take those extra precautions because we are dealing with soil that can shift."
Sinclair said while urgency is important, safety is the top priority.
"We are dealing with some pretty close quarters, we have traffic around us," said Sinclair. "And working 24-7, that's going to add darkness, and weather, and having to take shelter anytime there's lightning or heavy rain."
Friday's storms put crews working on a water main break in downtown Knoxville on standby. 4-4-14
"Certainly the wind is a factor, but most importantly the rain that we experienced at the time of the break, and also the rain we experienced this morning," said Tracy Hayes, Manager of Construction. "Obviously it's a very deep hole, a very large hole, so anytime you have rain, you're going to have water that's going to impact the men, the water has to be pumped, it's going to slow us down."
KUB said crews were continuing to dig out asphalt and work on repairing the pipes. Water to five commercial buildings is expected to be restored Saturday.
Roads are expected to remain closed, since TDOT cannot repair the road until KUB wraps up its work.
"Let me put this in perspective. This type of project, normally, if you were doing it in a planned circumstance, this is a three week project, and we're trying to condense it down to basically three to four day," said Hayes. "We'll certainly be working into the work week and more than likely into next week based on the damage and all of that is contingent on the weather."
Hayes said other complications include 12 different utilities in the area, ranging from electric lines to traffic signals to storm water.
"It's an 18-feet-deep ditch there. It's a very complex construction site," said Hayes.
Crews are working around the clock to repair a water main break in downtown Knoxville. WBIR
ORIGINAL STORY: Thursday night
(WBIR) Crews are working around the clock to repair a water main break in downtown Knoxville.
The pipe broke Wednesday night, at the corner of State and Main streets.
The City of Knoxville expects the following streets to remain closed through the weekend as repairs to the water main and road are made: Main Street between S. Gay Street and S. Central Street; State Street between W. Hill Avenue and Cumberland Avenue; the Main Street entrance ramp to James White Parkway.
While crews work to fix the water main break, Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) is also trying to figure out the cause.
Almost 24 hours in to a downtown emergency, crews continue their work on a water main break like we haven't seen in decades. 4-3-14
The cast iron pipe is from 1927. KUB Construction Manager Tracy Hayes said many pipes in downtown date back to the '20s. They are regularly checked through KUB's Century II program that monitors and replaces older pipes.
"We'll go through a routine inspection program, especially of our valves. Looking at our key valves on a regular basis and inspecting different pipes throughout the system," Hayes said.
According to Hayes, repairing the break will be a slow process because of other utility lines in the area. There are at least 12 utility lines located in close proximity. That includes electric, storm and sanitary sewer, water, telephone and gas.
"There was some other utilities in the area damaged, traffic signals. We have, again, multiple electric lines in the area so we have to dig safely and it slows you down as you're digging around multiple utilities. It's just a slow process in the downtown area," Hayes said.
Once those repairs are finished, KUB will have to focus on the road.
"It was such a widespread area that was damaged that it's going to take some time. We're going to have to remove some of the existing pavement that was buckled due to the pressure of the water and that takes time to remove all of that old asphalt and then to resurface," Hayes explained.
Work is expected to last at least through the weekend.