Louisville, Kentucky. A massive water-main break flooded a sizable area on University of Louisville’s (“UofL”) Belknap campus Monday night. According to reports, the break occurred at approximately 6:20 p.m. at or near the intersection of Floyd Street and Warnock Street – though investigation is ongoing to determine the exact location of the break. Witnesses and crew members observed parts of UofL’s campus under several feet of water. Also observed was a lake formation near the intersection of Cardinal Boulevard and Floyd Street, Louisville, due to an estimated loss of water to the break of nearly 40 million gallons. In the midst of what could have been a catastrophic event, six people who were trapped by water inside the Thrust Theatre Building were fortunately rescued by emergency crew personnel. Additionally, the water main rupture caused significant drops in water pressure and availability, which prompted Louisville Water Company to announce a boil-water advisory for the approximately 75,000 people affected (or the 25,000 customers of Louisville Water Co.) by the water break.
According to Louisville Water Company spokesperson, Kelley D. Smith, “This is like a sink, where the water is collecting in a bowl right now…This is a big one.” Further, Vince Guenthner, manager of government affairs for the Louisville Water Company, was quoted as stating “It is a large volume of water that we’re losing right now.” Workers struggled to shut off valves on pipes that were feeding the break. By 9:00 p.m. that evening, after the water company workers turned off three main valves, water pressure reportedly began rebounding. Unfortunately, water pressure has dropped across a widespread area inside the Watterson Expressway, which has resulted in little or no water for many downtown businesses.
According to reports, numerous downtown hotels including The Brown and Galt House have reported low water pressure; and, according to officials, the water pressure dropped from its normal 90 pounds per square inch (“PSI”) to as low as 20 PSI. As a result, officials have recommended that affected customers boil their water 3 minutes before drinking it, especially those affected who are located west of Bardstown Road and Baxter Road, west to Ninth Street, north to the Ohio River, and south to the Watterson Expressway. Guenthner informed the media that “What we are telling customers now is if they lost water or if they lost pressure, as a precaution, to go ahead and boil water, either the water they have now and when it is restored.” Officials reported that they would be checking water quality throughout the evening. Officials also reported that they are unfortunately not yet able to determine the amount of water that was lost due to the break nor can they yet determine whether the City of Louisville’s water supply was/is contaminated – allegedly, at least not until Tuesday.
Since his statement that was released earlier in the evening, Greg Heitzman, President of Louisville Water Company, had come to acquire a better understanding of where the critical break occurred, and described its location as a T-intersection of two 48-inch pipes near Eastern Parkway. Officials were able to find the break within 30 minutes and began shutting off the valves feeding the break. Although the last of the three large valves was closed shortly after 9 p.m., officials stated that it would take 6 to 12 more hours to turn off smaller valves feeding the break. Shortly, workers are scheduled to start excavating to remove the broken pipe, however, officials stated that it could take up to one month to figure out the cause.
Officials surmise that there are three possible factors as to why the massive water main ruptured, which they describe to be: (1) age, (2) increased demand brought on by the hot day, or (3) construction damage, according to the officials. Further, information disclosed by the officials included facts, for example, that these pipes are made of cast iron and were laid in the 1920s and early 1930s. Officials noted that Monday’s water main rupture was the worst water main break in two years, that is, with the exception of when a 60-inch main broke in Prospect, Kentucky. With regard to his comparision, the official concluded, however, that the difference in the Prospect main break was that water from that break flowed into Harrods Creek.
As far as restaurants operating Monday evening and within the break vicinity, reportedly in parts of the Highlands, and at some restaurants, low water pressure threatened Monday night dinner business. At Bearno’s, located on Bardstown Road near Longest Avenue, water slowed to a trickle for about one-half hour before returning, according to a Bearno’s staff member. At Bristol Bar & Grille, located across from Bearno’s, water was out for nearly 20 minutes, which forced the Bristol restaurant to shut down temporarily before the water began to flow again which, according to its manager, was at about 7:00 p.m. But, during that period of time, he noted several customers were turned away. Restaurants doing business in downtown Louisville also experienced water shortage, not to mention the City’s recently consistent hot and humid weather, which resulted in some staying open in hopes that the water incident would correct itself sooner than later, while other establishments closed early, at about 7:00 p.m., because there was no water and/or what little available water there was seemed questionable, quality-wise. After all, a boil-water advisory was in effect for an undetermined amount of time; not to mention that an informational announcement was yet to be announced to describe what harmful contaminants or the like, if any, one could be exposed to in the event a person or animal used the affected water at issue without first boiling it.
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