LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) - Some things get better with age. Water main pipes that are responsible for carrying more than 120 million gallons of drinking water to a city aren't included in that.
The six and a half mile main that runs along Eastern Parkway is nearly 90 years old.
“When the water main was installed in the 1930s, Louisville was really just starting to grow. We expect a water main to last about a hundred years. So, this water main has lived a great life, but it’s had some pretty big breaks over the last five years," Louisville Water Company spokesperson Kelley Dearing-Smith said. “We’ve been around since 1860. So, this is not our oldest pipe, but it is one of the oldest ones that we have.”
The most notable breaks in the past few years include:
- Eastern Parkway and Arthur Street at University of Louisville, July 2011
- Eastern Parkway and Crittenden Drive, August 2011
- Eastern Parkway and Baxter Avenue, April 2014
Louisville Water used a robot to inspect the pipe and found several weak spots. It knew it had to either repair or replace the water main.
“The problem is where it’s located. We can’t just dig up six and a half miles of beautiful Eastern Parkway. So, we’ve come up with a project that will slipline a smaller pipe inside the 48-inch main so that the old pipe still stays in the ground," Dearing-Smith said. “So, in the end, we’re able to have a new pipe, minimize the failures, preserve the character of Eastern Parkway and really the cool part of the project is that no one loses water service while we do the work.”
The three-part project will take three years to complete. Work will run from November to April each year.
“The reason we have to do that is this pipe carries millions of gallons of water every day. We just cannot take it out of service for a year. So, we do it in the winter months when the water demand is much lower," Dearing-Smith said.
Each phase will be about two miles and work will typically happen Monday through Friday.
“Customers will notice detour signs, and those will change because as we start to push the new pipe through, the traffic pattern will change," Dearing-Smith said. “Once the project starts, we’ll be updating the traffic detours on a weekly basis. For the most part, Eastern Parkway will be able to stay open, one lane on each side. There may be some times when we have to do some short-term closures, and if that happens, we’ll certainly let people know ahead of time.”
The total price tag on the project is around $25 million, but Louisville Water said every penny of that will be worth it.
“That’s a lot of money. It’s part of our capital plan, but it was actually one of the best alternatives because it really minimized the impact to the community," Dearing-Smith said.
Several other cities across the country have implemented this slipline technology, but it's a first for Louisville.
“We’ve certainly repaired water mains in the past. We’ve replaced them, but we’ve not repaired them on a scale like this. So, yes, this is a large endeavor," Dearing-Smith said.
Phase 1 will start in November.
“Phase 1 starts near Poplar Level and Eastern Parkway, winds along Eastern Parkway through the Bardstown Road area through the Cherokee Triangle area and ends up near Grinstead Drive," Dearing-Smith said.
From social media to community conversations, Louisville Water is doing everything it can to make sure the project is as painless for everyone as possible.
"Louisville Water is a lifeline to this community. We make it possible for you to get up and go to work, for hospitals to operate, for fire departments to operate--we’re part of this community. First and foremost, we know that we’re a critical asset, but we also know that this will be a huge inconvenience for some people. It’s short-term. It’s not going to be months at a time that this road will be closed, but in the end, we’re going to make sure that what’s happened over the last five years doesn’t happen again, that we don’t have catastrophic breaks like we’ve had before," Dearing-Smith said. “I’m sure the engineers from the 1930s would be laughing at us right now if they saw what we were doing with this. I don’t think this is how they communicated back in 1930.”
Follow Louisville Water on Twitter for updates @LouisvilleWater.
For more information on the project, click here.