PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - The saltwater splashing under cars at the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel could corrode your car and cause electrical systems to fail.
10 On Your Side initially looked into the $3.6 million of taxpayer money it has taken to repair leaks inside of the tunnel Thursday.
The water flowing into the tunnel tubes at the MMMBT is not fresh water; it is saltwater from the James River that seeps into the concrete walls at the mouths of the tunnel.
"Unfortunately, over a period of time, saltwater is very corrosive to bare metal," body repair specialist Steve Fink, owner of Fink's Truck Frame and Alignment in Portsmouth, told 10 On Your Side. "A lot of our newer cars have rust inhibitors in them, but over a long period of time, saltwater will deteriorate your sealant and your paints."
Charles Shortridge travels through the MMMBT six times per week.
"The water always seems to be there at the entrance and the exit no matter if it's sunny or raining," Shortridge said. "It is nasty water that comes down on the windshield and I always think about that because I helped build that tunnel."
Shortridge helped build the MMMBT in the late 1980s and early 1990s .
"When we were building, there would be huge amounts of water coming through the gaps and we would wonder... 'Where is that water going?'"
The first reported leaks started the year the tunnel opened -- 1992.
"I guess I have lots of concerns with more water coming through and the long-term effects that it might have on the vehicle," Karen Savage said.
Trucks with lots of metal are especially vulnerable to the saltwater treatment.
"A lot of your commercial trucks... they have a lot of exposed metal with no protection and over some period of time, there could be some corrosion going on," Fink said.
Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation say they are continuing meeting to discuss solutions for the tunnel.
For now, they will drill some relief holes outside the travel lanes leaving them unplugged and then reseal the areas inside the wheel paths in hopes of blocking potholes.
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