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Water line break causes mess downtown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A line feeding the fire suppression system in the Odd Fellows building at the corner of Capitol and Lee streets in downtown Charleston ruptured Tuesday morning, causing water to pour into the building and the adjacent streets.

"There's so much water," said Megan Delfine, daughter of Delfine's Jewelry owner Gene Delfine, as she looked into her store's basement.

West Virginia American Water employees received the call about 9:30 a.m., said Butch Templeton, a supervisor with the company.

About 2 feet of water had poured into Delfine's basement in about an hour, she said. She noticed water running through her back door at about 9:30 a.m., she said.

The jewelry store on Capitol Street was forced to close temporarily while water company personnel fixed the leak. Delfine, 29, who also contacted a company to clean up the mess, hoped to have the store reopened today.

"We're going to lose tons of business," she said.

She said insurance would cover all monetary damages to the store, but there were many personal items in the basement, she said.

Delfine's great-grandmother's armoire and her father's vintage train set were stored in the basement.

"He got that train set when he was like 2 years old," she said. "It just makes you sick."

Water company workers were forced to shut off water to about seven buildings on Lee Street between Summers and Capitol streets in order to begin working on repairs, Templeton said.

One lane of Lee Street between Summers and Capitol streets was closed for the work.

Employees had to dig through Lee Street to locate the valve for the Odd Fellows Building. 

Water was turned back on for buildings other than the Odd Fellows about 10:30 a.m., West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan said. 

However, the main water line into the building is tied into the line providing service to the fire suppression system, Jordan said.

Therefore, water service could not be restored to the Odd Fellows building, she said. The owner is responsible for the repairs to the fire suppression line, Jordan said.

The line providing service to the fire suppression system was installed in 1968, she said. The company's supervisor has notified the board of directors responsible for managing the building, Jordan said.  

This is not the first time Define's Jewelry has been forced to close because of a water line break, Delfine said.

"This has happened three times in the past eight years," she said.

However, it's often the water main on Capitol Street that breaks - not the line to the rear of the building, she said.

The line along Capitol Street was installed in the early 1940s, Jordan said.

"Some of our older lines in the city are in the downtown," Jordan said.

The challenge of dealing with aging infrastructure, including water lines, is a problem that many cities around the country are facing, she said.       

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at ;  



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