Heat One Cause of Water Main Breaks

Kelly Bartnick

Photo: Video by kmtv.com

Heat One Cause of Water Main Breaks

CREATED Aug. 29, 2013

OMAHA, NE - Traffic is down to two lanes at the site of a water main break in downtown Omaha. Crews were called just before 2:30 a.m. Thursday to 10th Street and Pacific Avenue. Repair crews had a difficult time locating the break, and by mid-morning the water had caused a large sink hole in the street.

MUD Engineering Design Director Jeff Schovanec said the rushing water undermined the street and the break was especially difficult to repair. It’s the latest in a series of breaks that have stopped Omaha traffic.
“We've had more serious breaks as far as impacts to the motoring public this summer,” Schovanec said.
Despite the break outside her front door, Connie Monastero’s employees continued serving breakfast and lunch Thursday. Joe Banana’s Food and Spirits never lost water, even though the sink hole was right outside the front door.
“When I walked around the corner I was amazed that it was quite as big as it was,” Monastero said. “Right now we still have water. We're still open, so things are good. But when they do find the leak, there is supposed to be a two hour shut off.”
Crews replaced a piece of broken cast iron pipe, damaged party because of its age, but also, according to Schovanec, because of the weather.
“The ground gets dry. It starts to move a little bit. The older, brittle mains in the ground can only respond to so much force and that's enough combined with increased demand on the system,” he said.
Schovanec said extreme summer temperatures place extra burden on the water system. Last year was a record year. So far in 2013, the city has had 350 water main breaks, and repaired at least another 50 pipe leaks. The number is a ten percent increase so far over 2012.
An OPPD spokesperson said Thursday the heat has not taxed the power grid. Usage may be up as people crank up their air conditioning to stay cool, but officials won’t know how much extra use the system is getting until next month. Also, no heat-related power outages have been reported.
So for now, it’s just the pipes cracking under the pressure.
“It surprises me that it's out in front of my business. But no, otherwise it doesn't surprise me,” said Monastero.
OPPD also confirmed that because of the high temperatures, the company is not shutting off power of people behind on their bills.
MUD has 2,900 miles of water pipe in the city of Omaha. The utility is in the middle of a years-long plan to replace the more than 1,200 miles of cast iron pipe because it is most susceptible to breaks.