Repair uncovers 130-year-old pipe

Repairing a joint leak on Oak Street, Plumber Leader Shawn Shaw recently uncovered a 48-inch water main manufactured in 1891.

“We always check the year stamped on a pipe just to see how old it is,” Shaw said. “We have to go in and clean up around the joint. Then we put on a clamp that has a rubber gasket in it to help seal it up.”

The work usually takes 14 to 16 hours from start to finish. The need for this type of repair is often identified through Louisville Water’s ongoing leak survey.

The company also continually works to reduce joint leaks and main breaks through its Main Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (MRRP), which reviews the history of each main to determine the best way to reduce system maintenance and improve service.

The history of the Oak Street main dates from the late 1880s when Louisville Water saw a dramatic increase in demand for its water.

The company decided on a three-pronged approach to modernizing its system that included a new pumping station, enlarging existing mains, and installing the Oak Street main.

“The need for the 48-inch main was tremendous,” said Louisville Water Museum Specialist Jay Ferguson, who pointed out that the company had gone from pumping an average of 5.1 million gallons of water a day in 1879 to 10.3 million gallons a day in 1888.

Work on the Oak Street main began in 1891, and the cast iron pipe went into service on December 30, 1893. The main stretched six miles, beginning at the Crescent Hill Reservoir and ending at the intersection of Oak and 12th streets.