SF water main break sheds light on aging infrastructure where 20% of water pipes are 100 years old

Luz Pena Image
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
SF water main break sheds light on city's aging infrastructure
San Francisco's water main break sheds light on the city's aging infrastructure where 20% of the water pipes are 100 years old.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Work is still underway on a sinkhole in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood. A section of Fillmore Street remains closed after a water main broke Monday damaging the street and nearby homes and businesses.

Repairs to the water main have been fixed, but that's just the beginning.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena has been covering this story and on Turesday went with one of the crews surveying the damage.

VIDEO: San Francisco water main break causes massive sinkhole, costly damage

Crews worked into the night in San Francisco to fix a water main break that happened late Sunday and led to a sinkhole Monday.

"Between homes and commercial buildings we have surveyed 116 and we are currently working on 68 right now," said Victor Cervantes with Service Master Restore.

Next door, San Francisco resident Bing Shen woke up to a stream of water that miraculously missed part of his home.

"We are a little further downhill so by the time the water got into my house it was much less. Therefore, we were lucky," said Shen.

On Union Street, the new owner of Marina Submarine was not as lucky. His surveillance camera capture a river like stream that rushed into this business.

MORE: Evacuations lifted in SF's Duboce Triangle neighborhood due to gas leak, water main break

"The whole basement is flooded even the sidewalk. The water went between the cracks and there is an office downstairs and there is a basement. It's all flooded. I have a lot of equipment such as freezers, fridges, and a lot of inventory down there. Now I have to toss everything," said Kaes Ihsun, owner of Marina Submarine.

According to San Francisco's Utilities Commission on average there are between 100 to 200 water main breaks in their system every year.

Approximately 20% of the city's water pipes are about 100 years old. The one that burst was 74 years old.

"We aggressively, proactively upgrade about 9-10 miles of pipeline a year. That's been consistent for several years now. The problem is that we don't have a crystal ball that can predict when the next water main break or leak might be," said Joseph Sweiss, SFPUC Spokesperson.

MORE: 88-year-old water main breaks, sending water racing down San Francisco hill and into 2 homes

The 16-inch water pipe in question was made out of cast iron - a material the city doesn't use anymore.

"Today, we use ductal iron which is more flexible and it's much stronger," said Sweiss.

As city crews continue to fill in the sinkhole, San Francisco's city attorney's claim division was also surveying the area. Home and business owners have up to six months to file a claim that the city needs to review. Many are starting the process now.

"They have to pay for the damage. This is nobody's fault. Business owners are trying to stay up for the neighborhood but it's tough," said Ihsun.

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