Water main break floods Vallejo street

July 10, 2008 6:19:18 PM PDT
Millions of gallons of water spilled into the streets of central Vallejo Thursday, after a water main broke for the second time this week. The break affected water pressure in a large section of town. The problem is bad news for a city in the throes of bankruptcy and service cuts.

Couch Street was completely covered in water and now it is just a muddy mess and looked like the floods in the Midwest. A 24-inch water main rupture occurred early Thursday morning right in the center of the city.

On Tuesday, the same pipe cracked open and flooded a motorcycle store. On Thursday, it was flooded again.

"Yeah it's a little frustrating, especially when it happens two times in three days," says Says Jeff Leggitt, owner of KTM Sportmotorcycles.

Fortunately, no other business was flooded, but about a third of the city experienced either low water pressure or had no water at all for up to an hour.

Kaiser Hospital's regional call center, which handles non-emergency calls, lost its water pressure. But, the hospital says its services were not affected.

City water officials say the rupture was most likely linked to Tuesday's water main repair.

"We actually brought the pipe back into service, put water back into it and it held just fine for about 24 hours and unfortunately, it broke again," says water superintendent Erik Nugteren.

The cracked pipes were made in the 1930's. Much of Downtown Vallejo's water runs through pipes of the same vintage.

No one knows if other parts of the water system are just as vulnerable. Nugteren says the city has a water fund of about five to seven million dollars.

The water fund cash reserve is not tied to the city's general fund. With Vallejo's bankruptcy problems and cuts in city services, that's a good thing.

But, if the pipe repairs cost more than what's in the water fund, that could pose a problem.

"We don't believe we can expect a bailout from the general fund if we don't collect enough revenue to cover our expenses," says Nugteren.

Crews are replacing the broken main, work that they say will be done by 9 p.m. on Thursday. Still the lingering question remains regarding the rest of the aging water pipes.


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