Gasket blamed for big leak

Utility workers completed repairs to the Providence Road water main Sunday, but residents south of Interstate 85 are still being asked to conserve water while the line is cleaned and tested.

Workers were able to seal a malfunctioning rubber gasket in the elbow joint of a 54-inch pipe that runs under Briar Creek, just off Providence. The part came loose sometime last week, allowing water to seep through and forcing officials to shut down a water line that serves about 100,000 households in southern and eastern Mecklenburg County.

By Thursday, the pipe should be back to full service and the emergency water restrictions lifted, officials said. Intermittent traffic interruptions are expected along Providence, between Queens and Wendover roads, until work is completed.

The water main break hit south Charlotte hard last week. As pressure on the line was reduced for repairs, it was increased in other parts of the system to keep water flowing into Charlotte's taps. That put stress on weaker pipes, and may have induced as many as four other significant breaks.

Officials reduced the pressure to address those problems. Now that the Providence line is repaired, officials do not expect future trouble.

“Once this thing comes back on line, everything should be back to normal,” Gullet said.

The 54-inch pipe was installed in 1986 and 1987 and designed to last between 50 and 100 years. “It was just one of those things,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Deputy Director Barry Gullet. “Sometimes you just can't explain why something breaks.”

For the next few days workers will flush the pipe and run tests to make sure the water is safe.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility customers from uptown and UNC Charlotte all the way to south Charlotte were prohibited this weekend from washing their cars, watering their lawns or filling their pools and fountains – activities already prohibited during the week because of drought conditions.