Water Break Floods South Wheeling Area

WHEELING – Buckled pavement, rushing water, fallen bricks and debris marred South Wheeling’s landscape Thursday after a major waterline break sent city crews scrambling to control water, which flooded streets not far from the site where a building had partially collapsed earlier in the day.

Public Works Director Russell Jebbia stood at the intersection of 31st and Eoff streets shortly before 4 p.m., watching as city employees worked in pairs to to shut off multiple valves located beneath the streets. Bob Fahey closed a valve at Eoff and 29th streets in an effort to slow the flow of water.

“This should get it under control,” Fahey said, but the deluge continued.

Jebbia said two pipes – a 6-inch and a 12-inch line – pass through the area where the break occurred, and crews initially were unsure which line had ruptured. He also noted that workers had found only two valves at the intersection of 31st and Eoff streets, where there should have been three.

Water gushed onto Eoff Street, and the force of the break thrust the pavement on 31st Street upward, causing it to crack and break. It flowed down 31st and 29th streets, covering portions of Chapline Street as well. There it poured into storm sewers and over and embankment into a nearby stream.

“We think it’s a 12-inch main,” Jebbia said at the scene. “There is a lot of water and a lot of damage. It’s unusual because there is road damage on both Eoff and 31st streets. That usually doesn’t happen.”

Cars and trucks plowed through several inches of water as they traveled down Chapline Street, sending water spraying from their tires.

Police cars initially blocked access to the areas where crews were working. City employees later closed portions of Eoff and 31st streets to traffic as they worked to isolate and repair the leak.

“We’ll be working throughout the night to get it fixed,” Jebbia said. “Some people will be without water, or at least have low water pressure for a while until we get the break isolated. We hope to have the water back on by morning, but it will depend on what we run into.

Jebbia later confirmed a 12-inch main had broken and said all water customers from 29th to 33rd streets between Eoff and Jacob streets would be affected. He said those customers likely would experience an interruption in service. Water officials later issued a 48-boil order for all of South Wheeling from 28th Street to 48th Street, including Valley Boulevard.

Around 7:30 p.m., Jebbia said crews were still struggling to shut off valves in the area of the break. He said many of those valves likely were close to 100 years old, so employees were opening and closing them repeatedly in an effort to achieve a tight seal and completely stop the flow of water.

A couple of blocks to the south, Wheeling firefighters had taped off a section of 33rd Street near Chapline Street after a a vacant building partially collapsed earlier in the afternoon. Firefighters said it appeared part of the roof at 33 33rd St. had collapsed, as well as a portion of the south wall.

Bricks and debris littered the sidewalk and spilled into the street. The city building inspector was called to the scene. The building is owned by Mutual Wholesalers of Wheeling.

Associate City Editor Heather Ziegler and Staff Writer Art Limann contributed to this report.