New water pipe connected; no boiling needed, city says

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, June 17, 2010

On its second attempt, a city contractor successfully made the first of four connections to a new 30-inch water main at Washington and Main streets early this morning while keeping enough pressure on the line to prevent a boil water notice for Vicksburg’s 10,000 customers, officials said.

“We were right down to the wire, but at 3:30 this morning we were able to start re-pressurizing the system and, at this point, everything looks good,” said Public Works Director Bubba Rainer.

Flow from the city’s Water Treatment Plant at the Vicksburg Harbor was cut off around 11 p.m. Wednesday, and Rainer said by the time the work was completed, “We were probably down to our last 30 minutes of water supply.” The reserve had been siphoned from the city’s four water towers, which hold a combined 1.75 million gallons.

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While a citywide boil water notice was narrowly averted, an unrelated notice was issued this morning for residents along Sky Farm Avenue east of Pemberton Street, and for 2nd Avenue residents, because of work on a 6-inch pipe at 207 Ridgeway St.

A pair of faulty valves kept contractor Hemphill Construction Company from making the connection on its first attempt late Tuesday and early Wednesday morning. Water was never completely cut on the first attempt, during which Hemphill spent the night repairing valves instead of tapping into the new line.

“Everything worked like it was supposed to last night,” Rainer said this morning.

Three more connections to the new water main remain to be made, Rainer said, but only the one completed this morning required the city to cut water to all customers. With the most crucial connection completed, Hemphill Construction should have water flow completely switched to the new line and the project completed by the end of the month, Rainer said.

The new water main will be one block from the site of a March 26 land shift at Washington and Jackson streets that jeopardized the vital 36-inch water main. The new line diverts east off Washington at Main Street and turns south on Walnut before heading back west along Jackson Street and tying back into the existing line.

Washington Street has been closed from Jackson to Main streets since the land shift, and additional nearby closures have cropped up because of the pipe relocation. The shift was discovered by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract employees who had been doing groundwork since November on an interpretive center and museum at the adjacent, dry-docked MV Mississippi IV. While the Corps never publicly took responsibility for causing the land shift — which has also left parts of Washington Street cracked and sagging — it agreed to pay for the $1.36 million relocation shortly after.

Rainer said it is not yet clear if Washington Street will be reopened to traffic before the July 4 weekend, when thousands of locals and tourists will descend on the area for the annual concert and fireworks show at the nearby Levee Street Depot.

“Once we get the new line in place, the Corps is going to start working to stabilize the hill where the land shift took place,” he said. “We’ll have to sit down with the Corps and see if we can get that stretch of Washington Street open. If we can, we will reopen it.”

An emergency was declared by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen immediately after the land shift, clearing the way for officials to get proposals instead of sealed bids on the work. Hemphill Construction came in with the lowest proposal of several gathered, Rainer said.

The first failed attempt to tap into the new line is not expected to increase the timeline or cost for the relocation project, he added. Hemphill was given 30 days to complete the project when it began work in late May.

The water main running beneath Washington Street is the primary line from the city’s water plant north of downtown on Haining Road, which draws its water from several nearby wells. The line splits into two 24-inch lines — one heading east and one continuing south along Washington — at Jackson Street. From those lines, the system branches into webs of 18-, 10-, 8- and 6-inch lines to deliver water to homes and businesses across the city.