Water returns to Thatcher’s First Avenue

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford Utilities workers excavate the dirt from around a ruptured water main under First Avenue in Thatcher.

By Brooke Curley


THATCHER – You don’t miss it until it’s gone. When the water was shut off for multiple households in Thatcher, people suddenly knew how important having easily accessible water really is.

A 10-inch water main pipe under First Avenue near the intersection with 8th Street in Thatcher ruptured just before noon on Monday. Authorities came upon the water seeping up through manholes and saw the water flowing down the street and into storm drains.

At roughly 1 p.m. that same day, the water was shut off. This water outage affected roughly fifty homes on First Avenue. Just before the intersection, crews blocked off First Avenue, making it impossible for drivers to turn down this highly-used route into the town of Thatcher.

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford Utilities employees work steadily into the night Monday to repair the water main leak.

Working past 7 p.m., Monday, Safford Utilities workers excavated under the pipe and took out the broken water main. It was speculated that the pipe burst because of weather conditions. Digging a hole roughly six feet deep in First Avenue, the Safford city work crews used multiple tractors, and trucks.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Nathan Estes: A repair crew drains the water to get to the damaged pipe.

At 6:10 a.m., Tuesday, the water rushed back to the Thatcher homes on First Avenue. There were many pockets of air in the pipes, creating huffing and hissing sounds in the line, but water continued to flow.

Nathan Estes with Safford Utilities was in charge of the water pipe repair. He said the crew had to replace two sections of pipe, and that the total job took roughly 18 hours to complete.

School buses were rerouted to avoid the still closed intersection but still arrived to pick up the children on time. By noon on Tuesday, the newly-repaired water main had been covered in dirt and drivers were able to pass over the packed earth where the six-foot deep hole had been the night before.

Safford Utilities Director Jenny Howard said it was an ordeal of excavation and clearing water away that took the most time.

“We have a ten-inch cast iron main and an 8-inch tap off of the main,” Howard said. “It took them a while to excavate.”

The work crew had to be certain as to the cause of the leak before they could be sure of their calculated repairs. The water had undercut the pavement, and once the crews had dug out the mud and earth around the pipe, they had to pump out the excess water.

Howard said that the damage had indeed been to the water main, which ruptured from weather changes.

“The cast iron main had split,” she said. “We experience that sometimes when there’s temperature changes, and the main is very old. We have a lot of old infrastructure.”

Howard said the pipe had been under First Avenue for roughly 86 years. However, the old pipe was not hazardous and did not contain lead or any other harmful substance.

“We don’t have any dangerous pipe(s) in the ground,” Howard said. “We just have some old pipe(s) in the ground.”

Brooke Curley Photo/ Gila Valley Central: Heavy machinery takes buckets of dirt and loads them into a nearby dump truck to reach the damaged water main.