Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Water service still scarce in downtown Nashville

Businesses say losses are substantial By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • January 12, 2010 As Monday afternoon drew to a close on Second Avenue, Metro crews were continuing to work to restore water to area businesses and residents, but officials say service will remain scarce for at least another 48 hours while crews test for bacterial contamination in temporary lines. The news wasn't good for merchants. Many of them have been without water since early Saturday morning when four water mains broke downtown. "It's utterly destroyed business," said Casey Ferguson, a Willie Nelson impersonator who has done walking and trolley tours for the past six years. "We need every tourist dollar we can get." Ferguson, whose kiosk-type business is set up at the corner of Second and Broadway, estimates he has lost thousands of dollars. Other businesses, such as Piranhas Bar and Grille, Abernathy Road, BB King's and Nashville Cowboy, said losses were substantial. Eric Woodward, operations manager at BB King's, said the Second Avenue club, which has been closed since Saturday, will remain closed until water service is restored later in the week. "We have 500 to 600 customers come in our doors on Saturday alone and we've lost private events too," Woodward said. "It's frustrating, but there's nothing we can do about it. "I don't see how a smaller business could survive this. We have five other locations helping to keep us afloat." Water hard to find From Broadway to Commerce Street, businesses along Second Avenue with water were hard to find. Other restaurants and clubs, which still had water and were not directly affected by the water main breaks still saw fewer customers. At the Old Spaghetti Factory, Department Manager Sami Khoury said the restaurant was expecting about 275 customers on Monday, but by 6 p.m., only 30 customers had come in. "People are being told not to come downtown because it's a mess," Khoury said. "We don't want people to think everything's closed because it's not. We're going to stay open through thick and thin. The only thing is it won't be too pretty outside." McFadden's Restaurant & Saloon, Buffalo Billiards and the Hard Rock Café, all had water service. Metro Water Services spokeswoman Sonia Harvat said there was no indication of how long it could take to repair all of the broken water lines downtown. The lines, which range in size from 24 inches to 36 inches in diameter, are some of Nashville's oldest, dating to the late 1880s. Engineers with Metro Water decided Monday morning to begin replacing over half of the underground water pipes in the city. The project, which was originally slated to begin in stages over the next five years, has been moved to priority one, Harvat said. The first pipes to be replaced will be on Broadway from First Avenue to 12th Avenue and on Second Avenue from Molloy Street to the historic courthouse. 61 mains break In all, 61 water mains had broken throughout the city since last Monday, when temperatures dropped below freezing, Harvat said. "This has been a very severe winter because it's been so cold for so long," she said. "Most of the breaks we've had have been smaller lines 4 inches to 8 inches in diameter. These larger mains carry more water and are more difficult to repair." Monday, Harvat said water department personnel were going door to door along Second Avenue to determine which businesses were without water. Harvat said the department has put its winter emergency plan into place, which means all field personnel are currently working 12-hour shifts until further notice. More water line breaks are expected as the ground begins to thaw later this week and as crews begin working to replace all the underground piping in the downtown area.

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