Broken Old Water Mains

Broken old water mains, pipes reaching their life cycle end are the watery bane of large North American cities cropping up in the midst of cruel hard winters.

There are many reasons for the breaks however, the most common is temperature change coupled with pipe age. Pipes reaching their life cycle end are especially vulnerable to air or water temperature changes which can cause them to contract or expand and break after the surrounding soil conditions have already caused their material to corrode or breakdown over their decades underground.

During last winter a 126 year old main burst on Peel Street in downtown Montreal and that was not the only break the city had, the same type of situation also plagued sister city Toronto. Not left out of the fame or outdone, New York City has had its share however from a high of 632 in 2003 they averaged less than six breaks per 100 miles of pipe in their network of nearly 7,000 miles of water mains, well below the accepted industry average of roughly 23-25 breaks per 100 miles annually according to the New York Daily News.

Normally, when the city receives a call from a citizen or if it’s maintenance department happens to spot a leak, they send a crew to decide the place and severity of the break. Fortunately, last year it was I that saw the leak, called the city to get things rolling. The crew quickly located the nearby control valves, reduced the water flow, then brought in the special equipment and heavy machinery to repair the breach over night. My video which has my photos of two water main breaks in my town including the one I reported also has some footage of a major water main break in the USA and that wonderful cat helping out.

Closing nearby valves associated to the water mains controls water flow through them. Depending on the type of leak, this will either reduce the flow of water or shut it off completely. When they find the repair site, they close the valve then use special equipment to find the precise place of the leak. Afterwards, maintenance crews sent to the site begin the repairs. Prior to any excavation, the crews must have total control of the affected area ensuring competent repair work without damaging other utilities, themselves or the public.