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Broken Water Main

December 7, 2009

SF Water Department Workers

What we first noticed was muddy water flowing in the gutter. We followed it up to a truck at the dead end of Woodhaven. It was the SF Water Department, and a water main was broken.

They had a powerful pump, attached to a hose, to suck water out of the hole they had dug in the road. It looked like it was having a hard time keeping up with the water-flow, and Woodhaven looked a bit like a stream…

pumping the water out

But they got the level down, and used a jack-hammer to expand the hole enough to reach the pipe.

It was dark by the time they found the break, but they had a powerful light to illuminate the problem. The next step would be to turn off the water and fix the leak.

One of the men explained the situation.

“See that copper pipe down there?” [You can see it in the last picture, behind the hose.] “That leads to the houses, and it’s flexible. But the mains are cast iron. They’re old. What breaks them is the cold.” Cast iron is notoriously brittle.

“The Water Department is gradually replacing them with ductile iron pipes,” he said. “It’s a good thing this happened before the rains started. If it had been raining, people would have assumed it was water from a spring, and not caught the leak.”

They continued working in the cold and drizzle.

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