He once was part of a crew that repaired a broken 48-inch water main.
It was New Year’s Eve.
It was two degrees below zero.
But neither the weather, the time of the day or night, the difficulty of the repair nor any other obstacle keeps Bill Perry and his co-workers from completing jobs quickly, safely and thoroughly.
Perry is a crew leader who responds to a range of emergencies and performs maintenance throughout Louisville Water Company’s service area.
He grew up on a farm in northern Indiana and then lived in California, where he studied welding and industrial maintenance at Norwalk City College. Perry moved to Louisville after working as an iron worker in California for a few years.
“I knew Louisville would be a good place to raise a family,” he said.
He started working for Louisville Water in 1991 as a laborer and moved up through several positions focused on maintenance and repair. Because of his years of experience, he’s built an encyclopedic knowledge of the water distribution system and the work necessary to keep it running, which ranges from relatively simple fixes for malfunctioning valves and meters to major repairs on the largest mains.
A second-shift crew leader, Perry says the ratio of repair jobs to scheduled maintenance during a typical shift is about half and half. Sometimes, there are three to six or even more jobs during an evening, but other times the crew might work on a single repair project that takes well into the next morning to finish.
“Sometimes a shift might last until 7:00 or 7:30 the next morning,” he said.
A longer shift for Perry’s three-person crew is especially likely when a main breaks, which is the type of emergency that could suddenly call him away from any other work he’s doing. Perry said a relatively minor break can usually be fixed within about four hours, but more severe breaks can take 12 hours or even longer.
Fixing a broken main requires many steps. The equipment involved usually includes a mini-excavator or full-sized backhoe, as well as a dump truck. The crew works as quickly as possible, but they also strive to not just meet but exceed standards and regulations for main repair.
“And we’re always thinking about safety,” Perry said. The team’s gear includes reflective vests, waterproof work boots, safety glasses and hard hats. “We do everything we can to keep both the crew and the public safe,” he said.
Even after a main is repaired, Perry’s team still has work to do. They use a fire hydrant to flush the line for five or ten minutes to remove any containments. The crew also tests the water for turbidity (cloudiness or haziness) as well as residual chlorine, and they collect another sample that is stored in a protective cooler so a Louisville Water scientist can pick it up for additional testing.
Perry’s crew also may fill the excavation area with rock and/or cement, and when a break occurs in a roadway, they’ll get the area ready for new asphalt that will be installed by a road crew.
Perry says he enjoys the hands-on aspects of his job as well as the chance to work directly on the water distribution system and to have an impact on customer service.
“When customers get their water back — that’s the most satisfying part of the job,” he says.