ELIZABETHTON — It has been a lengthy project, but the last link of the new waterline from Hampton Springs to Elizabethton underneath U.S. Highway 19E and the Doe River in Hampton began Thursday.
It was hoped the link would be completed Thursday, but the difficult terrain has slowed the work. It is now hoped it will be finished Monday.
Jim Roberts, construction manager for the Elizabethton Water/Wastewater Department, said the new line, which will carry more than half of Elizabethton’s water supply, should be operational in February.
Construction of the new line has been going in two directions. One has been going from the spring in Hampton, heading for Rittertown Road and the Doe River.
Bill Hunnigan, of the engineering firm of McGill Associates, said the second line has been heading south along the old East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad grade. The pipe goes through an old railroad tunnel that is also used by a new waterline installed by the Watauga River Regional Water Authority. Elizabethton’s new line then turns to cross under the Doe at the Rittertown Road bridge.
The linkup was a tricky piece of engineering that included a boring machine operated by D and D Underground Utility Contractors of Knoxville. The machine bored through the underground and pushed through the 24-inch pipe. The pushing of the pipe caused the surface of the ground to shake.
The best part of this method of pipe construction is there was no interruption of traffic on busy U.S. 19E and no road cuts and repaving had to be done.
The new line will replace one that is nearly 90 years old and fragile. The old line was made of cast iron with lead joints.
The city was so worried about so much of the city’s water supply going through such a fragile line that it once filed a lawsuit to prevent the WRRWA from installing its line through the old railroad tunnel before the city’s waterline was placed.
The reason for the city’s legal action was fear the vibrations from the construction of the new WRRWA pipeline would cause the lead joints to fail. The city lost the lawsuit, but the contractors were especially careful and there was no break in the old line during the construction.
When the work is finally completed, Elizabethton’s line will provide a more secure way of getting water from the city’s largest source to its customers.
One other person who will be pleased to see the new line completed is Hampton resident Kenneth Bass. The city has placed a temporary 24-inch line through a portion of his front yard for several years until the new line is completed. That temporary line will now be coming out, giving Bass an unobstructed front yard once again.
Elizabethton City Manager Jerome Kitchens said Bass has allowed the city to save thousands of dollars through the temporary line.