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Tulsa water pipe troubles go back decades

Posted at 5:10 PM, Jan 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-14 18:10:16-05

TULSA, Okla. — All over Tulsa this time of year, you can find construction projects. Many, like the one on 15th street near Utica, will work on fixing old water pipes.

The city is getting ahead of issues like the one that closed Thoreau Demonstration Academy.

The updates are so critical because pipe lines in Tulsa can date from the 1970s all the way back to the 1920s. Fixes can cost thousands of dollars, according to Eric Lee of Tulsa Water and Sewer Department.

"We spend approximately $13 million in replacing water lines throughout the city every year, out of a $30 million average annual capital budget," Lee said.

But age isn't the only issue, according to Water Distribution Division Manager Eric Parker.

"When it gets dry, like in the summer time or in the winter time when it gets cold and the ground turns hard and the pipe is stuck you know and the ground starts to shift, sometimes it just snaps," Parker said.

The problem is, that construction can cause problems as well, namely for businesses whose customers lose their on-street parking during construction.

Joe Guetlein, owner of Gallery Floral of Tulsa on 15th Street, says the lack of traffic after construction began has been noticeable.

"It's a lot quieter during the day. Not so many cars or people walking around. We still get a few rushes, but nothing compared to what it was like before the holidays," Guetlein said. "Now we're going to be more reliant for the 2020 season of online presence, phone orders, everything like that."

The water line repair on 15th Street is expected to be finished early Wednesday morning. The construction on 15th toward Lewis is set to be completed in the spring, but construction on the street closer to Peoria will be going on until fall.

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