Temperatures plunged to dangerous levels over the holiday weekend, prompting a flood of calls into the Louisville Water radio room. While most of us were lucky enough to spend time inside where it was warm, Louisville Water employees were hard at work, many of them braving negative temperatures, fierce winds, and icy roads to address water service issues.
The workload climbed as customers shared challenges of main breaks, “no water”, and large leaks. Additional customer service reps were called in to help field the urgent calls. While many concerns from customers reporting “no water” turned out to be frozen pipes on the customer’s side, emergency turners worked around the clock to reduce the number of those tickets.
Director of Distribution Operations, Joe Schmitt, praised the team effort, giving a “major kudos” to the radio room staff, the managerial support behind the scenes, and the Local 1683 crews who stepped up to complete dozens of jobs.
One of those calls took Emergency Turners Homer Barger and Andrew Crossan to the Olive Garden in east Louisville on Friday night. They rushed to turn off the fire service gate after a pipe in the restaurant’s sprinkler system burst.
“I walked inside and that whole place was covered in water,” Barger said.
The location of the main shutoff valve for the fire system combined with the snow and ice created challenges. The biggest wrench in the plan: newly paved asphalt buried the area they needed to access.
“We had to go off maps and measurements to find that gate. In my mind, we didn’t have any other choice but to get to that gate because of what we would’ve costed other businesses (if we turned off the water main),” said Barger.
Using blow torches and pickaxes, the crew heated the asphalt and dug up 10 inches of pavement to shut off the fire service gate.
“They (Barger and Crossan) should be highly commended for their actions and resourcefulness in completing what many ETs would have considered an impossible task,” said Harold Hunt, Supervisor of Operations.
Instead of unwrapping presents with his children, Plumber Leader Charlie Switzer spent his weekend wrapping up main breaks across the city. One job resembled a scene from A Christmas Story.
“I was helping a plumber leader’s assistant put a band on (the pipe) and it was so cold that when he handed me the wrench, it actually stuck to my hand,” Switzer said.
Early Sunday morning, Louisville Water customer, Melissa Nemtsov, was alerted to water gushing down the street from her home on Greenlawn Road. She reported it online, went to bed, and woke up without water. Switzer was part of the callout crew who responded to that main break.
Nemtsov shared her gratefulness to Louisville Water on Facebook, saying she was, “very thankful to the team that was on my street on Christmas morning fixing the pipe! I made sure to drive past them and thank them for being out on Christmas.” She added a bonus gift was having Louisville Water’s salt truck treat the street to keep it safe for both crews and residents.
We are incredibly proud of our employees who worked long hours away from their families over the holidays, to deliver the high-quality Louisville Pure Tap® that our customers rely on.