Water main break floods neighborhood in SF

February 27, 2013 6:42:24 PM PST
Homeowners in one San Francisco neighborhood are still cleaning up a muddy mess that came flowing into their homes early Wednesday. An old water main burst in the city's West Portal neighborhood sending water and mud rushing into the street flooding cars and some homes. Homes along 15th Avenue were hit hard and now, homeowners are wondering if a recent sewer line replacement could be to blame for everything.

The city says the sewer repair has nothing to do with anything. Crews finished installing a new pipe around 4 p.m. Wednesday and began backfilling the sinkhole, a project they plan to finish Thursday morning. For homeowners in the area, cleanup began in the early morning hours and will continue through the week.

The top layer of the street collapsed into a sinkhole Wednesday morning after water rushing from a broken 16-inch water main carved out layers of dirt and concrete below. That left the Katz-Rappaport family with no way to get the car out of the driveway and they were the only house without water for most of the day. "We're actually much more fortunate than our neighbors because we're uphill enough from the break that we don't have any water damage in our house," Michael Rappaport said.

Twenty-three homes downhill from them did including one with its own sinkhole in the backyard. Next door to that house, Kate Young is crossing her fingers. The Harley and the Ducati are OK. She and her husband woke to the sound of rushing water and the house cracking. "I think it shifted a bit because you could hear it cracking all over the place. That's what woke me up. And there's cracks inside the house, you can't open or close some window, doors you can't open anymore," Kate Young said.

Retired San Francisco firefighter Ray Moreno put priceless pictures of his childhood and his career out to dry. His wife's Winnie the Pooh collection was damaged. He knew the city pipes were old, but never expected this to happen. "The water mains are old. The city's old, the building's old, we're all getting older," he said laughingly.

The broken cast-iron pipe dates from 1951. There was a sewer pipe replacement project there last fall, but the PUC says it should not have caused this to happen. The sewer system is a 100-years-old and is being replaced at a rate of 12 miles a year. "We have the same plans on our water system, but it takes revenue, it takes rates and money to do that. So, when we go out and ask for these rate increases, this is exactly what we're trying to prevent," said Tyrone Jue with the SFPUC.

The city is still assessing structural damage in the homes. They believe at least one home, the one with a sinkhole in the backyard, suffered structural damage to the foundation. Repairs to the road should be completed by Thursday evening.


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