Ruptured Water Main Temporarily Fixed, Businesses Reopen

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PLAINS TOWNSHIP – Officials at Pennsylvania American Water said service has been restored to more than a dozen homes and businesses after a century-old cast iron water line ruptured within an arch bridge early Wednesday morning.

Water company spokeswoman Susan Turcmanovich told Newswatch 16 that 24-inch line was installed in the middle of the River Street bridge in 1903, and that many major water lines have a lifespan of about a century.

"We have so many miles of main in this area, 1,700 miles exactly in the Luzerne and Lackawanna County areas. Our pipes are underground and they are influenced by so many different things. Temperature, ground shifting, sometimes it's hard to pinpoint exactly what causes these mains to break,” said Turcmanovich.

Unlike many water lines that are built on the side or underneath a bridge, Turcmanovich said the line that ruptured is built in the middle of the arch bridge.

PennDOT District 4 spokesman James May said the bridge has been inspected and is safe, but inspectors will return next week to determine if the historic stone arch bridge was damaged by the leaking water.

Utility crews used a temporary line similar to a fire hose, and were able to restore water to businesses including McDonald’s and several offices in the Waterfront Plaza around 2 p.m.

Several customers were told to boil their water for 48 hours after service was restored. The advisory was lifted Saturday morning.

Managers inside the McDonald’s told Newswatch 16 that they are using two-liter soda bottles and bagged ice so they could reopen.

Turcmanovich said work on a permanent repair using a high density polyethylene pipe will start on Monday.

"Rather than tearing up the bridge and putting in a new pipe, we`re actually going to slip line a new pipe within the old one in order to return service to that area,” said Turcmanovich.