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Valve rupture leaves courthouse area dry

| Sunday, May 6, 2012, 3:00 p.m.

When Richard Kurtz opened the spigot Thursday morning at his Pagnotta Caffe in Greensburg, there was not a drop of water.

"I was like, 'Didn't I pay my water bill?'" Kurtz recalled.

But when he called the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, Kurtz got his answer. A ruptured water valve -- and not a late bill payment -- caused him and a few other Greensburg restaurant owners to scramble to buy bottled water so they could open for their lunch crowds yesterday.

The leaking valve at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and East Pittsburgh Street left the Westmoreland County Courthouse and a few nearby businesses without water until late in the morning.

Authority personnel rerouted service through a temporary setup to supply water to the courthouse and the businesses by late morning. The repair work was finished in the afternoon, said Chris Kerr, water authority executive director.

The leak occurred about 3 p.m. Wednesday. Crews worked overnight and yesterday to finish repairs.

The repair time was lengthened because of underground gas, sewer and electric lines near the break, Kerr said.

"We had to do hand-digging and excavation to make sure we didn't hit the other utilities," he said.

Kurtz said he used 30 one-gallon jugs of distilled water to cook and sanitize in preparation for his lunch rush. He decided to buy water rather than close his business, because Thursdays are usually busy.

"It's the only day we're open in the evening. So I'd be losing a big day financially," he said.

Gary Baum Jr., owner of Cook's Market on South Pennsylvania Avenue, also bought water.

"We went out and bought gallons of water, and we brought them here and made what we had to," he said.

Baum said a similar water problem a few years ago took awhile to repair, so the decision was made to buy water just in case. The purchased water was used in roaster ovens to make soup prior to the lunch rush.

"We guess-timated right," Baum said. "Better to be safe than sorry."

One block of North Pennsylvania Avenue, directly behind the courthouse, was closed to traffic. Vehicles were restricted to one lane on East Pittsburgh Street near the break.

Those in need of a restroom at the courthouse were told early yesterday morning to go to the nearby annex, which had water.

Gary Adams, owner of Bortz Hardware on South Pennsylvania Avenue, said he discovered the water problem when he arrived at his business in the morning.

"I got enough out of the lines for a coffee pot," he said.

Neighboring businesses with water service allowed their fellow merchants without service to use their restrooms, Adams said.

Derby's International Foods, located a few doors down from Cook's, Pagnotta Caffe and Bortz Hardware, wasn't affected by the break, said supervisor Donna Logesky.

"We never were," she said. "All around us was. But we were never without water."

A sign for customers was put up on Derby's front window -- "Yes, we have water. We are open."

Yesterday's breakfast crowd was "fantastic," Logesky said.

She assumed the reason was the water woes of the other businesses.

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