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Heavy rainfall has pushed up groundwater levels and delayed a project to bring sewer and water lines to South Third Street West, a Department of Public Works official said Thursday.

"You can de-water, but it's just so much right now that the pumps (and) the system just can't overcome the water," said Gregg Wood, project development coordinator with Public Works.

In other words, as soon as workers dig down a few feet, they hit more water than the pumps can handle.

The sewer main will run on Third Street from Grove Street to roughly Stallion Lane. A water main will run a loop from Reserve, down Third, along Tower and back down Seventh Street to Patty Ann Drive.

Wood said work is finished on Grove Street, but the entire project must be complete before everything can run. He expects construction to resume later in July, when the water recedes, and be completed this construction season.

"We think that we'll be able to get back on track once the water drops," Wood said.

He said his phone hasn't been ringing off the hook with people concerned about the work schedule because the contractor, Embe Contracting Inc., has worked well with businesses and homeowners.

"The people out there have been really patient, and we really appreciate that," he said.

Sara Wallace, manager and a co-owner of Wheat Montana, said she heard a few complaints from Grove Street residents when they had to use River Road to access Reserve.

"We had a few people drive through our parking lot and over the grass to get to Third Street," Wallace said.

But the grass isn't a lawn and she said she understands because it's hard to get out of River Road without a light.

Wood said the work has been shut down for about a week but workers may still be clearing equipment.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262 or at keila.szpaller@missoulian.com

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