Community Issues That Matter: Tweetsie Railroad tunnel is pathway for City of Elizabethton water

10:12 am | November 5, 2012

The City of Elizabethton began construction in September to place a new 16-inch water pipeline from the Hampton water plant through the Tweetsie tunnel to connect with the existing water pipeline on the Elizabethton side of the tunnel.

Photos by Bob Robinson
Johann Coetzee, director of utilities for the City of Elizabethton, is shown with the new 16-inch water line at the Hampton side entrance to the Tweetsie tunnel. The exposed section of line through the tunnel will be covered by a concrete slab for protection. The large excavator, pictured in the inset, operated in the confined space of the tunnel to dig a pipeline trench.

The project, financed by a $1 million revolving loan fund, will replace the 102-year-old water pipeline there now. Bob Stout Construction Co., Mountain City, general contractor, was awarded the contract by Elizabethton City Council in July 2012.

The new pipeline, approximately one mile in length, goes through the Tweetsie tunnel to connect with the pipeline on the Elizabethton side of the tunnel, located next to Highway 19E and Doe River.

When the project is completed in February 2013, the new pipeline will carry 3.2 million gallons of water a day, 60 percent of the city’s water needs, to customers of the City of Elizabethton Water Department, according to City of Elizabethton Director of Utilities Johann Coetzee, who is supervising the construction.

Coetzee said the estimated cost of construction and placement of the new water line is $791,000. The estimated cost of materials is $500,000.

Water pressure tests must meet standards set by the National Waterworks Association, Coetzee said. “There will be tests conducted on three to four sections of the new water pipeline, he said.

Coetzee said each section will require three days of testing, done by the contractor under the supervision of the City of Elizabethton.

The testing involves the following steps: First, the line must be flushed, disinfected, filled with chlorinated water, and pressurized to ensure there are no leaks. After the water stays in line two to three days, the line is flushed, then de-chlorinated and filled with drinking water. It then goes through an additional period of bacteriological testing to ensure the water is safe to drink and that there are no impurities in the water. Then the water is released for public consumption.

During the installation of the new water line, water will be transported to the City of Elizabethton via the Watauga River Regional Water Authority water line by agreement between the two utilities.

The WRRWA water line is protected by a concrete bench along the tunnel wall. The Elizabethton line will also be encased in concrete through the tunnel.

Coetzee, whose background and experience is in civil engineering, said he enjoys working with the general public and coworkers to improve the aging water and sewer infrastructure in the City of Elizabethton. He said he is in the process of collecting data on aging water and sewer infrastructure in the City of Elizabethton in order to prioritize the work schedule.

“We need to begin work on it now and not leave it up to our children and grandchildren,” he said.

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