RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Bitter temperatures, followed by the thaw-out we're now experiencing, are brutal on Richmond's aging water lines.
A second pipe burst above I-95 Tuesday afternoon, shutting down lanes near the Bryan Park interchange. On Monday, a water main break above I-95 near East Broad Street left two-feet of standing water on the highway, just ahead of rush-hour. Both lines were quickly shut off.
The water supply does not go directly to customers, according to the Richmond Department of Public Utilities. Officials say pipe breaks which impact customers are always fixed first.
City crews dealt with at least ten pipe bursts Tuesday.
The Richmond area has seen dozens of water main bursts since the cold snap in recent weeks. The city's fluctuating weather batters the city's pipes, some date back to the 1800s.
When water freezes and then thaws, both the pipe and ground can expand and contract, causing a rupture.
City officials say nearly a quarter of all Richmond's water main breaks happen in January.
Ginter Park neighbor Joe Stankus said he was able to avoid this afternoon's congestion on I-95, caused by the water main break.
"My wife called me, and got me off before I got into traffic," said Stankus. "I've lived here for 62 years and don't remember this many broken pipes."
DPU officials said all crews are working to address the water main breaks, including crews that are usually assigned to other projects.
So far this year, Richmond utility crews have fixed 36 water main breaks. In 2017, 157 water lines had to be repaired by the city, causing the usual flooding, traffic snarls and water getting shut off to nearby residents.
Richmond public utilities is dedicating nearly $10 million this year to replacing ten miles of old water lines. That's more than double recent years. In the meantime, officials say pipes are generally fixed as they break, prioritized by their impact on customers.
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