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Utility line repair blocks Publix driveway, creating traffic jam

City utility crews work on sewer line at the Publix on Greenville Highway. City utility crews work on sewer line at the Publix on Greenville Highway.

Everyone knew the crowds would be big when Publix opened its Hendersonville store on Wednesday. No one counted on a utility line stopup that forced city crews to close the main driveway for five hours — creating a traffic jam in the parking lot.

Chalk it up to bad timing and coincidence. From the beginning, observers have wondered whether building in the middle of Hendersonville's best-known flood zone — where Mud Creek crosses White Street, a couple hundred yards west of Greenville Highway — would make flooding worse. Wednesday's sewer line problem had nothing to do with stormwater or the store opening. City officials think it was caused by contractors building the upgraded sewer lines for the project.

Plug 1The culprit: a sewer line plug inadvertently left by construction crews."The line didn't have any overflow but the line was backing up," City Manager John Connet said Wednesday night. When crews opened a manhole to see what caused the backup they found something called a sewer plug — a heavy-duty rubber ball used to plug lines during construction. Once the work is done, the sewer line contractor is supposed to remove the plug. "It did not get removed after the construction," Connet said. City officials plan to contact the contractor to discuss the situation.

City crews got the call around 1 p.m. and finished fixing the line around dark. They reopened the driveway shortly after 7 p.m. While the Greenville Highway driveway was closed, cars queued up in three lines 12 or 15 deep waiting to exit onto White Street.