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Water line break disrupts service, traffic in Martinsburg

July 01, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Water service for several hundred residential and business customers of Martinsburg's spring-fed public utility was disrupted all day Monday after a 12-inch main line cracked just south of the city along Winchester Avenue (U.S. 11), officials said.

Utilities Director Stephen M. Knipe said he hoped to have service restored by Monday night, but couldn't immediately say whether the line failure along U.S. 11 near Bernice Avenue was the only break.

Reported about 9:30 a.m., the line break caused a portion of the asphalt to buckle in the middle of U.S. 11, which was closed to southbound traffic between Bernice Avenue and Wheatland Street for the repairs to be completed.

Motorists were forced to use a detour involving both streets and Hedrick Avenue to get around the work site.

Knipe said customers between Lawn Street south of the city and Wilson Street in the city's southern end were affected by the line break.

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Amy Martinez Arteaga said her husband discovered the water main break within view of their home in the 1300 block of Winchester Avenue.

"It's a good excuse not to do my dishes," she said.

Knipe said the cast iron pipe, believed to have been laid in 1950, could have been stressed by a power outage at the city's Big Springs water plant over the weekend, Knipe said.

An electrical outage can lead to a "water hammer" or a surge of pressure that is particularly difficult for a cast iron pipe to absorb, Knipe said.

Knipe estimated the length of the crack in the bottom of the pipe was 6 to 10 feet long.

If the pipe had been laid on gravel, instead of hard rock, Knipe said the line likely would have lasted longer.

The failed section of pipe was being replaced with ductile cast iron, a less brittle material, Knipe said.

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