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Burst water main snarls traffic into Shelbyville

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2 leaks repaired after 18 hours, but 275,000 gallons spilled

By Todd Martin

A water main break on Midland Trail across from the Shelby County Fairgrounds late Tuesday left traffic snarled for almost 18 hours as water gushed from the ground and down the hill toward Beechwood Ave.

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Shelbyville Water Company Manager Tom Doyle said the change in water temperature likely caused the pipe to start leaking at the connection, but a second leak that sprung later was because of an old section of pipe.

“We think when we reduced the [water] pressure to work on the leak that the pipe shifted and got in a bind, and that caused the second leak,” he said.

Crews were on the scene by 10:30 Tuesday night, and Doyle said they finally left Smithfield Road and Midland Trail intersection a little after 4 p.m., reopening the intersection to Ashland from Smithfield Road and the left lane headed east into Shelbyville on Main Street and Midland Trail.

“Our crew was running on thirty-six to forty hours without sleep,” he said.

Dwayne Warford, a member of that crew, said it was tough battling temperatures near zero as they worked on the leaks Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

“I think the lowest I saw it was about six degrees,” he said. “There was just no way for us to stay warm. We’d climb back in the truck for a little bit to warm up, but that’s about it.”

Warford, who has been with the water company for about 20 years, said this was one of the coldest nights he has had to work, but that wasn’t the worst part.

“No sleep, that’s the worst,” he said.

More than 275,000 gallons of water spilled onto the streets during the repairs, and Doyle said the area that broke is one of the older parts of the city’s water system, which made it a little more difficult to repair.

A coupling that bolts over the blown gasket was used to repair the bell connection, but the other leak took a bit more time.

“We originally thought it was a leak that ran along the pipe, which is a lot harder to repair,” he said. “But with this one, instead of using a clamp, we actually turned the water flow way down, and the guys cut out about three-feet of pipe and replaced it. They were down in the flowing water wearing waders and replacing while we kept it going for customers.”

Doyle said his office received a few complaints of low water pressure during that time but that water remained on and available during repair.

The water company put a temporary repair on the road for now, with a more permanent repair coming with the weather changes.

“We filled it in with rock, and we have a steel plate over the hole now,” Doyle said. “We’ll let that settle for a bit and then come back with concrete and add a cold-patch [of asphalt] to cover it. Then when the weather warms, we’ll replace that with asphalt.”

He also praised the work of the state road department, city’s Public Works Department and the Shelbyville Police.

“Everybody was out there with us from the start,” he said. “The state helped us keep the traffic flowing and public works was keeping the ice from forming on the road. Everybody helped us out.

“And the community did a nice job of avoiding the area once word got out, and those that did have to come through were careful and cordial to help us stay safe.”