This story was updated May 14, 2018, at 11:33 p.m. with more information.
Tennessee American Water will begin installing a 30-inch pipe beneath the Tennessee River next week to improve water service and pressure to the 20,000 customers on the north side of the river.
The $3.2 million project comes nearly two years after a leak in a 53-year-old pipe beneath the river caused a drop in water pressure and supplies to the North Chattanooga, Red Bank and Signal Mountain areas supplied with Tennessee American Water. To correct for the leak, the water utility installed another pipe across the Walnut Street Bridge and put a smaller sleeve within the leaking line. But Tennessee American Water has been planning for the past couple of years to add the third and biggest piping connection to areas north of the river.
Kurt Stafford, engineering manager for utility, said the new pipe will add redundancy and resiliency to the water delivery system.
"Reliable water infrastructure is a critical part of economic stability and growth," he said. "A 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers study found interruption of water service for only one day would result in businesses reliant on that water seeing a drop in sales of up to 75 percent.
The contractor for the project, Reynolds Construction, will stage a barge on the Tennessee River to excavate the river bottom in order to lay the pipe and bury it. Divers will install the pipes and lock the sections together.
Tennessee-American Water spokeswoman Daphne Kirksey said the 1,850-foot pipe will connect to the North Shore around Heritage Landing and is expected to be operational by November. The barge will be visible to users of the Tennessee Riverpark and the waterway behind the Tennessee American Water plant on Riverside Drive.
"The last pipe that Tennessee American Water installed in the river was in 1963," said Stafford. "While this unique project is not one that you would see every day, we have the expertise and knowledge to perform the work both safely and efficiently."
Stafford said the utility has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the city of Chattanooga to ensure the pipe installation will not interfere with boat navigation, river recreation or other activities along the Tennessee Riverwalk this summer.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.