The entire town of Walnut Cove was without water Saturday, forcing many businesses to shut down and residents to spend time elsewhere as crews worked to repair a water line that had collapsed.
Walnut Cove Town Manager Byron Ellis reported Saturday morning that the town was experiencing a water outage after a section of pipe collapsed. The public works department began repairing the damage and informed the town that they hoped to be done by mid-afternoon.
The break was off of Highway 65, just past Hedgecock Builders Supply. The creek bank eroded due to the recent heavy rains and exposed a section of 12-inch pipe that collapsed because the earth was washed away.
Though the town website initially said the lower half of town was experiencing the water outage, water was shut down to the entire town, confirmed Kevin Webb, the town’s public works director. Some locations in low-lying areas kept a trickle of water, but most people were without water from about 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. or later Saturday, as the town’s water valves were shut off during that period. That was the first time in about seven years that the entire town had to be without water, Webb estimated.
An update was posted on the town’s website at 4:35 p.m. Saturday that the damage had been repaired. It stated that it could take a few hours for full pressure to build up in the system.
The pipe collapse came on the heels of another water loss incident Thursday night. Webb said crews worked all night last Thursday on Stokesburg Road to fix part of an 8-inch pipe that had rusted off due to old age. The water was left on during the process but the town had lost a good bit of water by the time the department discovered and started fixing the problem after 9 p.m.
Then Friday night, Webb got the call around 9 p.m. that there was another problem. By the time the source of that water leak had been isolated — the erosion at the creek — the town’s tanks had lost much water. This led to water being cut off across the entire town. Webb said the public works department worked from about 9 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday trying to get the water cut off and got back to work Saturday morning when the needed equipment arrived to make the repairs.
The pipe collapse along the creek bank did not appear to be caused by age or deterioration, Webb said. It gave way when the creek washed its support out from under it.
At 3 p.m. the public works department started turning the water back on. In the process, they had to open fire hydrants to purge air out. During that process, workers discovered that someone had hit a fire hydrant near Lakeside Drive and Highway 311 and run. This also had to be repaired by the town.
The town does not yet have a full picture of the budgetary impact of the emergency. Webb said an outside contractor had to be called in to repair the damage Saturday because the town did not have the necessary equipment to work by the creek.
“You don’t ever count on something like this happening,” said Webb of the emergency.
But the spot that was fixed should not give the town any more trouble, Webb noted.
Mayor Lynn Lewis said, “I thank Kevin and all of the water and sewer people who worked so diligently.”
He also thanked residents for being patient and businesses and citizens who fed and looked after the workers. Lewis said of the situation, “It could’ve been a lot worse.”
The incidents over the weekend highlight the town’s need to improve aging infrastructure, the mayor said, which is why the town board has been working over the past few years to raise rates and find ways to generate funds for repairs.