Broken water main creates sinkhole in Lafayette

November 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A gas leak and a water main break affected a number of residents in Lafayette on Wednesday. The water main leak also created a sinkhole.

The water main break was reported at about 11:30 p.m. at the corner of Withers Avenue and Reliez Valley Road on Tuesday night. The pipe was between 50 and 60 years old.

The problem for most of the day was getting rid of the water that came from the broken water main that washed out dirt and caused a sinkhole. Thousands of gallons of water and lots of mud ended up at the first house below the sinkhole.

"At 11 last night, my neighbor woke me up. He sloshed through the water and banged on my door because somebody was honking their horn and that didn't wake me up," said flood victim Patrick Doyle.

That is when the nightmare started for Doyle. His house was spared, but water a foot high got into his garage. It soaked cabinets and left him wondering about a possible mold problem down the road. The water even made its way to his beloved yellow Corvette.

"Some water got in and I don't know how big of a deal this is going to be. Hopefully it will be able to be dried out and won't have the smell and all that stuff," said Doyle.

It took East Bay M.U.D. about two and half hours to get the water turned off. PG&E got a bypass around the broken gas line around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.

"A pipe going from one section of the line to the other section, to the damaged area, so that there is absolutely no way that any further gas can be leaking," said PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian.

East Bay M.U.D. spokesman Charles Hardy said the proximity to the gas line had prohibited a more rapid repair of the gas main. But it's entirely possible this scene could be magnified many times over in the event of a major earthquake, considering East Bay M.U.D. has over 4,200 miles of pipes in its system.

"We have had Loma Prieta. Those pipes held pretty well. We didn't have a lot of people out of water because of a main break," said Hardy.

However, everyone is advised to have two weeks worth of water in house, should a major quake strike the Bay Area.

Water service returned Wednesday night for the Lafayette residents, after it was shut off for a total of about 22 hours. Families with relatives over for Thanksgiving had a difficult time dealing with their toilets which had to be filled with water manually each time.

In the end, nine homes were flooded.

East Bay M.U.D. will pay for the damages which could include foundation and mold problems.


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