AUGUSTA — Motorists would do well to avoid traveling around Cony Circle this weekend.

The pavement is slated to be torn up so utility workers can repair a broken underground drinking water valve that has been keeping the innermost travel lane wet even on the driest days.

The work is being done by the Greater Augusta Utility District, and details about the break and the anticipated repairs are contained in a series of exchanges between the district’s general manager, Brian Tarbuck, and the utility district’s board, city officials and postings on the district’s Facebook page.

The valve broke on Tuesday afternoon, Tarbuck said on Friday, as crews were operating it to try to shut down the lower Cony Street area near Old Fort Western as part of a system upgrade.

“The broken drinking water valve at Cony Circle can’t be shut down using our existing valves despite our best efforts,” Tarbuck wrote. “One of the issues is that some of the pipes and valves are 114 years old and we’re reluctant to operate them more aggressively for fear of breaking more valves and widening the problem.”

Tarbuck explained that a water valve on an old 6-inch water main located at the north side of the Cony Circle is leaking, with water rising from the top of the valve “and surfacing on the inside lane of the rotary on the north side. It shouldn’t get any worse and shouldn’t erode the road as it drains to a catch basin on the west side of the rotary.”

He estimated the cost of the lost water at about $230 per day, with that being distributed among all utility drinking water ratepayers.

Tarbuck said the repair normally would take about six hours on a side street. “However, the intersection of pipes and valves at that particular location is very complex,” he wrote.

“We have been unsuccessful at shutting off the water to remove or replace the valve without also shutting down a significant portion of the Arsenal Street and lower Eastern Avenue customers and our pump station that delivers drinking water to Togus,” he wrote. “That’s not an acceptable solution.”

The plan is to have crews saw-cut the pavement on Saturday, and then begin excavation near the leak about 5 a.m. Sunday.

Tarbuck indicated the leaking valve will be removed and replaced with pipe, and that it could take a total of 15 hours until the area is backfilled and temporarily surfaced. Permanent pavement would be applied later.

He said the specialty contractor, Team EJP, which has offices in Gardiner, is not available before Sunday and that is the preferred day because of lower traffic volume. The contractor has equipment that keeps up pressure in the lines while the repair is being made, so no water has to be shut off.

“If all goes well, it should be unnoticeable apart from construction work on the circle,” Tarbuck said.

He said scheduling the repair involved a lot of planning and notification.

“We have to ensure that our workers are safe and traveling public safe as well as keeping up water pressure for fire department and surrounding residences,” he said. “It’s just a lot of coordination that’s going on.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams