The Louisville Water Company has lifted the boil water advisory that was in effect after a major water main broke Tuesday morning in the city’s Shelby Park neighborhood. But repairs continue, and the water company could end up footing the bill for dozens of residents’ damaged cars and homes.
The 48-inch water main broke at East Ormsby Avenue and South Clay Street Tuesday morning, where residents say water surged eight feet up into the air and flowed down streets like a river. Millions of gallons of water flowed from the pipe, lowering residents’ water pressure, trapping a bus and other vehicles and prompting the water company to issue a boil water advisory.
Video and images of cars on social media show cars submerged in the water and debris floating down streets.
Louisville Water Company spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith said the break highlights a need for further investment in pipe infrastructure. She said the water company experiences about 600 water main breaks a year, and pipe maintenance takes up a large portion of the company’s capital budget every year.
But water main breaks like this can be unexpected, and repairs may come out of Louisville Water’s untapped $2 million contingency budget.
“When these pipes break, it’s massive. The damage can be enormous,” Dearing Smith said. “Putting the pipe back together is really just one part of the equation. There’s the roadway, there’s sidewalks, there’s landscaping. It’s quite a job to finish.”
She said the company expects to restore water to residents Wednesday evening and to fix the 48-inch, 105 year-old pipe in days.
Mud, Flooded Cars, Bottled Water
But for those living near the broken pipe, there’s a lot to fix. Dirt now cakes the sidewalks, workers slosh through mud to repair the pipe and water jugs sit on the steps of residents’ homes.
Abdalla Qumane has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, but he’d never seen a water break like this. It totaled his four cars and temporarily shut down his water. His water returned Wednesday, and Qumane said Louisville Water has offered to help pay for his cars which were not covered by insurance.
Across Clay Street, George Strange woke to the pipe bursting. He’s homeless, but lives behind a house near the broken main.
“I woke the neighbors up — told them to move their cars,” Strange said. “They couldn’t move them. The water was too high, all their cars got flooded.”
Two of those cars belonged to Cynthia Prince. Prince woke to Strange knocking, warning her to move her cars. The water had already reached the sidewalk. By the time she stepped inside to put shoes on, the water had risen to the first step before her house.
“It kind of scared me,” Prince said. “The water — it was moving fast … it was going down the streets, but the deepest part was in front of my house.”
Prince’s water is still off, but she said the water company has offered to help pay for her car.
Louisville Water Company spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith expects the pipe will be repaired by Monday. Repairs to the pavement, sidewalks and surrounding area may take another week.