Photo courtesy of Barb Walter
Prior to North River Street being shutdown to traffice last Thursday night, motorists drive through water in front of the 309 General following another water main break in downtown Hot Springs.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – For the fourth time in the past 24 months, a major water main break occurred in downtown Hot Springs, this time due to soil corrosion of iron pipe installed in the 1980s. The latest event happened last Thursday evening, July 28, at about 5:25 p.m., directly in front of the 309 General next to City Hall.
According to City Engineer Tracy Bastian, the 16-inch iron pipe, which when originally installed was likely 3/8 to ½ inch thick, has been corroded down to about the thickness of four sheets of paper, he said.
Bastain said that within a couple of years, the water main will likely be too corroded to even perform repairs, which is why the City of Hot Springs included the full replacement of the iron pipe as part of the current Hwy. 385 reconstruction project. While the replacement of the iron pipe has been part of the reconstruction project all along, some additional water main breaks and valve issues further north, between Minnekahta Avenue and the Evans Plunge area, forced the city to recently add the replacement of those utility lines to the overall project as well.
Included in the area recently added to the project is where the main break occurred earlier this winter near Black Hills Meat, which was the result of broken PVC pipe, also installed in the 1980s. Along with that incident, a rusted-out valve near the Flat Iron Guest Suites also created a second leak which caused a water outage for many downtown residents for multiple days.
Bastian said that when breaks like the one which occurred last Thursday take place, it is like an eruption which can cave and cause immediate and noticeable damage to the sidewalk, curb and street. He estimated about 50,000 gallons of water was lost in the breakage before city workers could shut off a pair of valves to isolate the area – one near Minnekahta Avenue to the north, where the water was coming from, and another on Jennings Avenue where the water was headed.
In addition to beginning the surface cleanup of the area, Bastian said the next step in addressing the situation is to locate phone lines, which can cause up to an two-hour delay before city crews can begin digging up the ground to fix the break buried about eight feet under the road surface.
Once given the OK to proceed, Bastian said about 10-12 city workers – including water and streets department employees – worked until 3:30 a.m., on Friday, July 29, to replace about a 3-foot piece of pipe and restore water service to the downtown area, while also providing areas of drainage for the water which had pooled up in front of buildings.
Brent Estep, owner of the 309 General, said they did have some dirt and water come into their building and cover the floor about seven to eight feet from their front door, but most of his concern was for the water that went under his floors.
He said he has photos of his building from the 1930s when flood waters from Fall River caused significant damage to North River Street. He said he believes that is why his building is equipped with a pair of floor vents which he opened Thursday night to try and dry out the area under his floors. While he was closed Thursday due to having no water, he could have reopened Friday night but had planned to remain closed to allow more time for everything to dry out. His plan was to reopen fully by Saturday.