Downtown Bloomington water main break closes Walnut Street

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At around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, a water main break at 4th and Walnut streets in downtown Bloomington meant that roads were blocked off in both directions.

At the time, city of Bloomington utilities estimated the repair would take at least four hours.

Based on progress at around 8 p.m., CBU crews were going to need more than four hours.

As the repair was being made, the discovery that it was not a broken pipe, but rather a broken valve, was good news. According to CBU spokesperson Holly McLaughlin, a valve is easier to fix.

At one point in the early going, a roughly three-foot geyser was erupting from under the asphalt.

McLaughlin compared Saturday’s break to one on Kirkwood Avenue in summer of 2019, when the water pressure from the burst main popped up some old brick pavers from underneath all the layers of modern road.

According to McLaughlin, the pipe that was affected on Saturday is a 12-inch diameter cast iron pipe, installed in 1973.

According to the CBU press release about the 4th and Walnut water main break, only those addresses that lost water service are under a precautionary “boil water advisory.”

Notification of the break and the possible boil water advisory was sent out to people in the vicinity with Monroe County’s emergency alert system.

When Bloomington’s director of public works Adam Wason visited the scene, he checked through the window at the John Waldron Arts Center, on the northwest corner of the intersection for possible flooding of the basement. Some dampness was apparent, but no significant intrusion of water was visible.

It was a different story down the hill, at the other end of the block. The basement of the 222 S. Walnut building, home to Realty, was getting deluged, owner Juan Carlos Carrasquel told The Square Beacon. Carrasquel spoke with the Square Beacon when he was visiting the 4th and Walnut intersection to find out why there was water in his basement.

Saturday’s water main break is the eighth in the city of Bloomington since the start of the year.

A more aggressive water main replacement program is a part of the case that CBU will be making to the city council in the next few weeks for a water rate increase.

The idea is to go from replacing about 2 miles worth of pipe per year to 3 miles a year—to reach an eventual goal of having a program that replaces all the city’s water mains every 100 years. At the current pace, it would take 200 years to replace all the city’s water mains, which is longer than the expected life of a pipe, according to CBU director Vic Kelson.

The accelerated water main replacement program would mean increasing expenditures for water main replacement from the current level of $1.7 million a year to $3 million a year by 2025.