Tapping into Louisville Water’s Role in Kentucky Derby 150

Mini-Marathon prepAs we approach the 150th Run for the Roses, Louisville Water crews are wrapping up their own laps around Churchill Downs.

“We are making sure since Derby’s coming up that all the meters are on, that we have all the right meter numbers, all the right endpoints, so that hopefully, there’s nothing that can go wrong,” said Metering Plumber Leader’s Assistant Andrea Belden.

Gray skies and light rain didn’t stop Belden and Plumber Leader Katie Cooper from working their way through their checklist.

“Large meters, small meters, any meter on the property, we gotta check it,” Belden said.

Mini-Marathon prep“We check the strainers on all the large meters that we’re doing,” Cooper added. The strainer is essentially a screen designed to catch any debris. “We check the strainers to make sure there’s no blockage in the flow and if there’s a change in anything so that they can have the highest velocity of water that they’re supposed to get.”

The list is quite a bit more involved for Plumber Leader Chris Meeks and Plumber Leader’s Assistant Scott Corbin who inspect dozens of fire hydrants, meters, and more than a hundred valves. (Valves help control the flow of water.)

“We’re doing that to make sure we all have pressure, even pressure around Churchill Downs to make sure nothing is in the ‘off’ position,” Corbin explained.

Mini-Marathon prepWith years of this assignment under their belts, they have a system. Corbin tackles the valve inspections while Meeks tests all the hydrants.

“If they’re leaking, then we make a ticket and go ahead and fix it on the spot,” Meeks said.

Repairs or more detailed jobs are added to a high-priority list. The pair juggles their tasks around the track in between their normal job duties and water stop preparations for the Kentucky Derby Festival mini/MARATHON. With that race in the books, now they’re racing to the finish line for Churchill Downs.

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“Closer to the Derby, we’ll do what’s called a directional flush. We do that to ensure water flows freely out of the hydrant through the main,” said Meeks.

In addition to maintaining optimal water pressure, Corbin says safety is top priority as well as ensuring quick access for Louisville Water crews.

“If God forbid something happened, we are able to get on these valves and we can isolate, shut down just the area that’s a problem.”

Emergency Turner Jesse Jewell also keeps her coworkers in mind while verifying and marking dozens of valves around the track and surrounding neighborhoods.

“I’m making somebody else’s job easier and making it so that they can get a hold of the situation faster.”

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Part of Jewell’s job is making sure people who live around the track enjoy the same Louisville Pure Tap® they rely on despite the additional tens of thousands of people flocking to Churchill.

“There’s going to be a lot of people here, so there’s going to be a lot of water consumption.” Jewell said. “Verifying that all of the valves are open is going to guarantee that just because they’re (Churchill Downs) using so much water, it’s not going to rob these people (nearby residents) of their water.”

It’s a job she takes seriously. She even brought out a metal detector to track down a valve that someone had covered up with pea gravel. She quickly sprayed the valve lid blue, marked the street, and placed a blue flag nearby.

“I had to locate this one. It only took me a couple extra minutes, but I’ve had some experience,” Jewell said humbly. “If something does happen, there’ll be a (Louisville Water) crew staged out here in case. Instead of them having to come and locate this, they’re going to be able to already see it.”

Mini-Marathon prepAt the end of the day, everyone’s goal is to make it a smooth, safe, and fun Kentucky Derby for everyone – Louisville Water, Churchill Downs, and the community.

“Derby is good for the city. It brings in a lot of people. It brings in money for the city, so I think it’s a great thing. We make sure they keep water,” Cooper said.

And we’re thrilled to play a role in the most exciting two minutes of sports. Join us in raising a glass of Pure Tap to the 150th Kentucky Derby!