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Wartrace water line breaks

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 3/7/23

Wartrace residents faced another water main break toward Phillipi Road and Horse Mountain Road over the weekend. Many residents were without water for three days and counting at T-G press …

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Wartrace water line breaks


Wartrace residents faced another water main break toward Phillipi Road and Horse Mountain Road over the weekend. Many residents were without water for three days and counting at T-G press time.

Crews began working in the early mornings of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday but to no avail as they could not locate the source of the break. 

“This leak was reported on Saturday and since then our utility crew has scoured the 5+ miles of line that carries water in that direction,” said Wartrace Mayor Brian Ross. 

He added that they did not disclose the exact area where they were looking for the leak. He said they were being “mindful of our utility crew to prevent any passersby with questions or onlooking which can deter our crew from their search and to prevent any additional traffic from onlookers and create traffic flow concerns.”


Facing many complaints, the Town of Wartrace said in a recent Facebook post that there is not an “on or off switch with this.” Instead, “the water line that brings that area water is broken somewhere. It’s a needle to be found in a haystack.” 

Some residents said they stayed in motels while others said they took showers at the local rec center. Or as one resident said, “Humans can’t just hit pause on using the toilet for three days.”

“This has been a challenging weekend to say the least,” said local business owner Tabby Stem. She said they had to go to their shop (The Express in Shelbyville) to fill 5-gallon buckets in order to flush the toilets at their house and at their daughters’ houses, then shower at their relative’s.  

“We couldn’t do our normal meal prep that we do every Sunday (so no food prepared for the week now) and were unable to do the work outside that we needed to do,” she said. “As of this morning, we still have no water.  I still have no idea what is going on and am surprised that we were so uninformed in this situation.”

Another resident commented, “We have lived in this area for 35 years with many water shutoffs. I couldn’t begin to count how many. I know it is difficult to chase leaks on 80- or 90-year-old lines. We are already paying more for water than anyone around and understand that leaks happen...”

Many were also sharing photos of possible leaks near roadways, some stretching out to the Highway 82 junction. The town reported Rye Engineering, which specializes in leak detection, on the scene helping. 

“We’re also thankful to a couple of former water managers still active in our community who are here helping, as well,” said Town Recorder Kathy Tyson. 

She said once the leak is found, repairing it will not actually take that long (depending on how deep it is).

Ross added, “When it comes to Wartrace Water billing, we only bill our customers for what they use. For the impacted customers, they will not be charged for the days without service, for they have not had any usage due to this leak.”

Residents are encouraged during any water main break to keep their eyes open and report any water standing where it shouldn’t be. For example, the town said sometimes the leaks show themselves in the middle of fields. 

Residents can call the Town of Wartrace at 931-389-6144, comment on Facebook, or message them to report any unusual standing water. 

Water rates

Meanwhile, the Wartrace Board of Mayor and Alderman continues to look at their water rates. Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) finance specialist Eric Spencer did a presentation at the last meeting to discuss where the water rates will be in the future.

A lot of this is mostly based on Wartrace’s growth. Though more people will be joining the system and contributing financially to it, the town will essentially have more to pay for the system as operating expenses continue to increase.

“We would consider the impact and any capital improvements that you plan to add to your system as well, of course, any grants,” said Spencer. They also looked at whether Wartrace would be making a profit or not if water rates were to remain the same. Spencer said the town could expect to see a decline in the fiscal year of 2027. 

To combat this, rates will most likely have to go up again by 2025 at a minimum, according to Spencer. He said he recommends making the rate increases in small, marginal increments.

“We think you could be okay next year without an increase,” said Spencer. 

Wartrace’s system is not only old but extensive. Built as early as the 1930s, Wartrace has about 100 miles of water pipes that span from the town itself to Tullahoma to Beech Grove to the Highway 41A-64 intersection. Essentially, Wartrace’s water district has hundreds of miles of pipe and less than 1300 people to pay for it. 

“We cannot thank that area enough for their patience while we relentlessly look for this leak,” Ross said. “We have our water crew, myself, and other contractors, along with previous water managers, to help find this leak. We know that our gratitude, and thanking those customers for their patience while they are being impacted by this, will not get water back to that area immediately, [but] we are adamantly doing everything we can to repair this leak. We can promise and guarantee that.”