Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Tennessee American Water began excavating the damaged 24-inch water main Saturday.

On Wednesday, a contractor laying fiber optic cable for AT&T, hit and broke the water line.

The excavation could take several weeks, which only means more loss for those Southside businesses already affected by the break.

Tennessee American Water crews made great progress Saturday, digging over 8 feet below concrete to reach the damaged line.

Still, much of Cowart Street is under heavy construction, and for businesses who depend on that street traffic, it's another setback.

Since Wednesday, Cowart Street business owners watched Southside Street go from a flooded mess to heavy construction.

After spending three days securing and preparing for excavation, Tennessee American Water crews actually began digging.

"We certainly are losing some drive by traffic and it's been down a little bit the past few days," says Todd Murphy.

Todd Murphy runs a gift shop, facing Cowart Street and for the next few weeks he'll have a direct view of construction.

"The main flow of traffic, if you don't know where we are, is from Cowart Street," says Murphy.

The street is closed to through traffic.

Heavy equipment moved in Friday night with excavation beginning Saturday morning.

By midday, the damaged pipe is exposed.

Still, crews work carefully around the line to avoid further damage.

Once it's removed, Tennessee American Water will analyze it to determine exactly what happened, and who is responsible.

"Each day that goes by we're trying to get back to normal business," says Nick Kyriakidis.

But it's been difficult for Niko's that experienced flooding inside the restaurant Wednesday.

"All the business, really in the Southside, really depend upon people coming down here the traffic," says Kyriakidis.

Which is why owner Nick Kyriakidis worked with crews to shrink the construction footprint as much as possible.

But with weeks of heavy construction ahead, the headache is far from over.

"It's hard, especially with everything else going on, all these external factors putting stress of businesses. It's hard," says Kyriakidis.

Removal of the damaged pipe will probably happen sometime this weekend.

Once it's removed, crews will have to set up new connection points to replace sections of line.

Meanwhile, AT&T officials tell Eyewitness News vibration coming from the equipment could have caused the water main to break, instead of a direct hit.

Meaning, the company would not be entirely at fault.