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Water Main Break

Original post made by David, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 10, 2012

ABC7 news reported a water main break on Newell overnight. Palo Alto utilities said it was caused by low overnight temperatures. No way was the cold temps to blame. It is purely the aging infrastructure. Temporary drops in cold temperature have little effect on water main 3+ feet below the surface unless we live in snow country. The soils provide much better insulation and the constant flow of water keeps the water from getting too cold for any freeze to occur.

Comments (7)

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Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

Sorry, but I forgot to add the URL for the ABC7 story. Web Link

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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

You are absolutely right. Low elevations in California rarely get freezing temperatures,much less below freezing temperatures. Last night was not one of those nights that even left frost. PA Utilities' explanation was balonet.

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Posted by Ex-employee
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I saw the news story. It wasn't very accurate. For instance a crew member was carrying the thin aluminum tube they use to suck water out of the hole. The reporter said they were carrying the replacement pipe. Not her fault she doesn't know construction. There's no cover up.

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Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Not surprised at all considering most of PA's infrastructure was built during the Eisenhower Administration and earlier. Good to see our city council is taking god care of us

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

I think KTVU Channel 2 News also covered this - they said 35 degree weather led to two pipe breaks and showed several inches of water covering the first floor nice hardwood of a home (apparently on Newell - near the PA Main Library). Is there a way to avoid these municipal pipe breaks - I mean, it didn't snow and freeze or anything.

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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I just hope the city if PA pays for the damages to peoples' houses that were flooded. Toxic mold forming in these houses is a real issue, esp if they have Chinese drywall in their homes. I suspect the city is trying to avoid liability by saying the cold weather caused it (which is a lot of baloney).

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Posted by Debra Katz
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Utilities Communications Manager here...I wish I'd seen this comment train earlier as I could have stepped in sooner to say that the media reports had several items wrong.

The earliest KTVU broadcast had the errors and the rest of the media, unfortunately, picked up on them. The first error is the one many readers noted, namely, that the cold weather was not a primary cause for the main break. Indeed, the main was an aging cast-iron pipe that simply fractured, as they will sometimes do at the end of their life. The City Council IS taking care of you---and has supported the Utilities Dept's aggressive program to replace older water mains with modern state-of-the-art materials. (e.g. if you've driven along Alma in the last few months you were likely inconvenienced by the major water main replacement project there.) However, there are 214 miles of water mains in Palo Alto and we haven't gotten to all of them yet!

Secondly, the report referred to two main breaks, but there was only one. Water service was restored by 11:30am, almost 3 hours earlier than predicted, thanks to some real hustling by our Utilities crews.

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