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Water authority workers used shovels to reach the break in the 12-inch line.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Water was restored to the Roanoke Regional Airport about 9 p.m. Wednesday after a water main broke around noon.
Eager to tackle the broken water main that cut supplies to the airport, water authority workers broke out their shovels Wednesday afternoon rather than wait for someone to point out where fiber optic lines might run, which would have cleared the way for them to use a backhoe.
A break in the 12-inch line at Aviation Drive and Towne Square Boulevard did not affect water supplies available to aircraft and so did not affect flight operations.
By late afternoon, the airport had brought in a tanker truck to supply one concourse bathroom, as well as a set of portable facilities.
“We’re making do, trying to make passengers as comfortable as possible,” said Sherry Wallace, the airport’s manager of marketing.
A four-person crew from the Western Virginia Water Authority decided to start digging by hand to reach the line, rather than wait until early evening for the OK to use a backhoe.
But it was fussy work, because they had to keep a sharp eye out for fiber optic lines.
“They’re taking small bites. You can’t just shove the shovel in deep,” said water authority spokeswoman Sarah Baumgardner.
The crew had checked with the “Miss Utility” service before digging. Since water crews often have to dig by hand, feeling their way around imprecisely located underground lines, they were comfortable making an early start without waiting for the fiber optic line to be located.
The authority was able to adjust valves to keep water flowing at reduced pressure to businesses near the airport, Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner said the repairs were finished around 8:30 p.m. At that point, water was flushed from the line to make sure no sediment would be present.
Baumgardner said the line is one of many that dates to the 1950s. She said those lines are more susceptible to breaks between two sections of pipe, which is what happened Wednesday .
Crews had to cut out the broken section and replace it with a new piece.
Baumgardner said the Western Virginia Water Authority budgets between $3 million and $4 million each year for replacing ’50s-era pipes. She said that while the water authority tries to be proactive in replacing old pipes, many still occasionally break.
Baumgardner said the day’s events unfolded with little incident or discomfort after the break was discovered.
“It was an inconvenience, but we worked together with the airport and they were pleased with how well we worked together,” she said.
Staff writer Liana Bayne contributed to this report.
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