HUNTINGTON -- West Virginia American Water Company has filed a federal suit against Nichols Construction, claiming the construction company was responsible for a broken water line that flooded sections of Huntington in January.

Nicholas Construction was excavating and preparing to install a telecommunications conduit in the vicinity of 12th Street and Sixth Avenue in Huntington on Jan. 22 when it dug into and ruptured a 24-inch water main line, according to the complaint filed in federal court.

The break caused water to spew about 20 feet into the air and to flood a portion of downtown Huntington.

Some Huntington residents were without water for more than one day as they were warned not to use tap water because of fears of contamination.

A few businesses were forced to close after the break shut down a portion of Sixth Avenue for days.

Weeks before the incident occurred, on Jan. 9 Nicholas Construction informed Miss Utility of West Virginia of its intent to excavate, WVAWC claims.

In its notice, Nicholas claimed it had marked it dig site in white paint and indicated that the depth of its excavation work would extend to 36 inches, according to the complaint.

But when Nicholas began its excavation work, it dug "well below its stated depth of 36", as well as several feet south of the indicated direction of its dig, such that its directional boring device came into contact with and ruptured WVAWC's 24" water main located more than two feet horizontally from said indicated path," the suit states.

WVAWC claims it has incurred damages including main line repair costs totaling more than $100,000, repair costs for adjacent lines which were damaged by increased pressure, purchases of replacement water for customers who lost potable water service, business interruption and loss of water revenues.

Nicholas was negligent because it failed to advise Miss Utility of the true depth, direction and location of its excavation work, failed to properly mark its intended excavation work and operated its directional boring device outside of its noticed path, according to the complaint.

WVAWC filed suit in federal court because it is seeking more than $75,000, according to the complaint.

In the three-count suit, it is seeking an unspecified amount that will fully compensate it for damages it has incurred including repair costs, purchases of replacement water for customers who lost potable water service, damages related to business interruption and loss of water revenues.

It is also seeking damages for annoyance, aggravation and inconvenience, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees and other costs associated with the action.

Mark E. Troy of Bailey and Wyant in Charleston will be representing the company.

U.S. District Court case number: 3:08-1264

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