LARGO — Bad news is still gushing from the water main that burst just before Christmas: 142nd Avenue N and Belcher Road will be closed well into next week.
That's because Pinellas County officials said it will take longer to repair the break and the roadway than first anticipated.
"They knew it was a pretty bad rupture when they first saw it," said Pinellas County spokesman David Baker. "But the logistics of getting in there and repairing something that big in that deep of a hole are very difficult."
Work crews discovered the broken 4-foot-wide pipe while working on the water system Thursday night, officials said. The line is one of three primary feeders for Pinellas County Utilities customers in the southern half of the county.
Officials believe old age, not the work crews, is the culprit behind the broken main. The pipe was targeted for replacement before it broke Thursday, but the project was pushed back from 2009 because of budget cuts.
County officials hoped to have the pipe repaired by today, then have the intersection repaired and repaved by week's end.
But now the water main isn't expected to be repaired until the end of this week, which means work crews won't be able to tackle the roadway until next week.
It appears that at least a 20-foot section of the pipe needs to be replaced, Baker said, which will leave workers with an even bigger hole to fill before the roadway can be fixed.
"It's just a difficult repair," Baker said. "Getting all the concrete out, cleaning the area and cutting the new piece and making sure it fits just right."
That means Belcher Road will remain shut down between East Bay Drive and Ulmerton Road. But while the intersection will be off-limits to commuters for almost two weeks, the county stressed that many businesses there are still open and accessible.
Pinellas also has tried to supply them with temporary water lines, Baker said.
As a result of the break, more than 100,000 residents were told to boil and conserve water — at least those who still had running water.
The boil water order was lifted Sunday morning. But three dozen businesses and an RV park nearby are still affected.
Residents of Lee's Travel Park at 1610 Belcher Road S were without water from about 5:30 p.m. Thursday until the county set up a temporary water line about 7 p.m. Sunday.
A Christmas without water wasn't pleasant, said Bill Hannan, 73, a seasonal resident from Ontario, Canada.
But it's a travel park, he pointed out, and residents made due. The county and park's owner made sure there was enough bottled water, and residents whose trailers lacked water tanks used water from the pool to keep their toilets flushing.
"They've got a real problem out there," Hannan said. "It's not a simple job. It's going to take time."