Old Pipes Cause Safety Concerns in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Old pipes are to blame for a massive sinkhole and many water main breaks throughout Charleston -- pipes as old as the city itself.

A massive sinkhole formed downtown Wednesday on Quarrier and Brooks streets in Charleston. Old lines from a combined sanitary and storm sewer system are to blame.

"It's as old as the city itself," City Manager David Molgaard said. "Some of these lines go back to the 1800s."

Lines hundreds of years old are now starting to show their age.

"A lot of our systems have old clay pipes that was the technology way back when," Molgaard said.

City crews are working to replace many pipes they know need work. It's part of a massive multi-million dollar project. The city spends between $8 million to $10 million a year maintaining, monitoring, and replacing old lines.

With more than 30 miles of lines underground, though, Molgaard says, "It's infrastructure, and it has to be repaired and replaced at times and there are situations like this that cannot be anticipated."

Although an inconvenience, neighbors like Gary Borstein are happy crews are on top of the problems.

"They're gonna happen, but the beauty of it in Charleston is the road crew, our infrastructure," Borstein said. "It gets repaired very quickly."

West Virginia American Water is also working to replace old water mains. Some of them are more than 100 years old. A portion of customers' bills goes toward upgrading and replacing lines.

Click on the related story for more on the sinkhole problem in downtown Charleston.

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