AT&T crews rupture downtown water line; thousands without service

AT&T crews rupture downtown water line; thousands without service

February 23rd, 2011 in Local - Breaking News

Water flows up from the sidewalk at the corner of Cowart and 14th streets after crews installing fiber optic cable broke a 24-inch water main Wednesday in downtown Chattanooga. Staff Photo by John Rawlston

Tennessee-American Water crews are shutting down a broken water main to allow a replacement to be installed and restore water pressure to downtown buildings with more than 10,000 workers.

But utility spokeswoman Kim Dalton said the company is not sure yet when water service will be back to normal for many downtown and Southside businesses.

A 24-inch transmission main water line was cut into by an AT&T contractor just before 10 a.m. this morning at 14th and Cowart streets.

Nick Kyriakidis, a manager at Niko's Southside Grill, said cooks noticed the drop in water pressure shortly after 9:30 a.m.

"We looked outside and saw the water gushing up two feet in the air and we knew we had a problem," he said.

Water from the broken main began flooding the basement, although not before crews cleared out the underground area.

"The water isn't rushing in as much now that they have turned off most of the water main, but we still have water in our basement," Kyriakidis said. The flooded street kept patrons away at lunch, but he hopes to be open tonight.

The water company estimates from 10,000 to 20,000 people work in buildings where water was either cut off or the water pressure was reduced after the 24-inch transmission main was cut around 10 a.m.

By 1 p.m., water pressure was restored to many affected buildings by rerouting water transmission through other pipes, Tennessee-American spokeswoman Kim Dalton said.

Dalton said an AT&T contractor drilled into the water main.

Turning off the high-pressure, 24-inch main requires some time to stop the flow of water, Dalton said.

"Once we are able to completely shut off the main, we can dig down and install a replacement pipe," she said. "This demonstrates the importance of the infrastructure beneath our streets."

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.

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