The busy intersection of U.S. 24 and Noland Road will remain partially closed for at least a few more days following Saturday's water main break there, as repairs go beyond that of a normal water main break.

The break happened shortly before 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and within an hour police had to block off Noland from the south, as well as the eastbound lanes of U.S. 24. That closure will remain in place possibly through the end of the week. Traffic on U.S. 24 has been reduced to one lane each way, with access available to and from Noland Road on the north side of the intersection.

No customers hooked directly into the line, so any loss of water pressure would have been minimal and temporary until department personnel activated valves to reroute water. Also, with no direct feed to customers, the water department did not have to issue a boil advisory, directors said.

In itself a water main break in Independence isn't abnormal. With 760 miles of mains to maintain, one every few days isn't that unusual, said Matt McLaughlin, Water Department deputy director. But most of those breaks are in a 6-inch or less main. The city has fewer miles of the 12-inch transmission mains, but Saturday's break happened with one of them.

“It was more of a blowout; a lot of water all at once,” McLaughlin said. “With the state highway there, it kind of has a ripple effect.”

McLaughlin explained that the main in this area was lowered in the 1950s to below an old pedestrian tunnel that had been installed particularly because of William Chrisman High School across the street – and many students at that time walking to school. The tunnel is about 8 feet wide and about 12 feet below the surface, and the water main is about 15 feet below that, making it unusually deep water main repair.

Since U.S. 24 is a state-maintained highway, the city must discuss the repairs with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“We meet with MoDOT Tuesday morning; we have a couple of options we'd like to present,” McLaughlin said. “We're ready to move forward as quickly as can get approval. We want to make it a permanent fix to bring it up to a manageable level.”

Water Department Director Dan Montgomery said they suspected the area had a small leak before and did traditional underground testing, but due to traffic noise it was hard to detect a leak.

A majority of the city's 760 miles of water mains were installed in the 1950s or shortly thereafter, McLaughlin said – a product of Baby Boomer expansion. The material for those pipes has often proven not as durable as the city's oldest mains, which date from the 1880s into the early 20th century.

“They're made of cast iron, and we rarely have to work on those,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said the department's outside contractor for paving with water main repairs has been lined up. Given that it's a busy intersection with a high school next door, the city wants to minimize the traffic hassle even with a larger-than-normal repair.

“We're sensitive to that,” he said. “If we have to work after hours to get it done, we'll do it.”

“Hopefully by the end of week we'll be back in business.”

Montgomery and McLaughlin said they couldn't estimate a cost but said any cost would be covered from existing reserve funds.