Isolating and repairing a burst water main is more complicated than you might think.
We tend to take plumbing especially city water and sewer systems for granted. Pipes run along unnoticed behind walls and beneath streets, at least until a problem occurs. While few home plumbing problems will be as dramatic as the recent water main break that flooded parts of UCLA’s campus last month, every problem deserves the attention of a qualified plumber who can resolve it in the most timely and cost-effective manner possible.
The LA Department of Water and Power has faced criticism for the amount of time it took to shut off the burst Sunset Boulevard water main, which gushed at full capacity for over 5.5 hours and then continued to leak at 10 percent capacity (1,000 gallons per minute) for a full day. In total, an estimated 20 million gallons of water were lost.
A representative of the Department of Water and Power explained that shutting down a city water main is not the simple procedure you would follow to shut off your home’s water main. Instead, it requires the coordinated control of multiple valves in the area. The first stage was to shut down three valves, and then nine valves could be closed to further isolate the broken main. It was important to proceed slowly to protect the water supply from backflow contamination and to avoid sudden pressure changes that could damage other pipes in the surrounding area.
Repairing the damage caused by the water main break was also a big, time-consuming job for the city’s engineers. Although the burst main had essentially excavated itself when the initial surge of water shot upward and outward and created a 25 by 30 foot sinkhole on Sunset Boulevard, crews had to do a bit more excavation to reach the pipe. Then, once the repair was complete, about 400 tons of sand and 540 tons of crushed aggregate had to be brought in to fill the hole. Finally, the street had to be repaved.
UCLA will also have a lot of work ahead in recovering from flood damage to its basketball arena and parking structures. A total of 960 cars were stranded in the garages, about 400 of which were on lower levels that were completely submerged for days.
If you have a home plumbing emergency, the good news is it shouldn’t take almost a week to recover from like this burst water main did. However, it is still important to contact a professional plumber for help right away. As soon as the leak is controlled, you can then call other professionals to help you dry your property and salvage what you can.