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City wants reasons for water-main breaks

September 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Los Angeles City Council committee wants some answers about the rash of water main problems plaguing the city. The Energy and Environment Committee told DWP executives to come up with some recommendations, the sooner the better.A water main breaks in Coldwater Canyon. A few days later, a sinkhole nearly swallows a fire truck. The Department of Water and Power (DWP) admits there's been an increase in severe breaks -- 36 this month -- and it doesn't know why.

"It starts to make you wonder what's happening," said L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz. "Are we going to have one of these a week?"

The L.A. City Council's Energy and Environment Committee asked DWP executives what they are doing about it. Their answer: they don't know what's causing the breaks.

"Given the number of incidents I would think there would be a sense of urgency," said L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry.

There is water rationing, and watering residential lawns is allowed only twice a week. There are fines for violating the ordinance.

Some people have suggested fluctuations in pressure cause the water lines to break.

"This is at best tenuous," said David Nahai, president, LADWP. "We've not seen it happen in other jurisdictions as a result of water conservation."

Councilman Greig Smith wants a more definitive answer.

"I can tell you I've been doing three days now a week," said Smith. "The lawn looks a lot better doing eight minutes, three days a week, rather than two times a week at 15 minutes. Come cite me if you want."

In order to fine the councilman, they would have to catch him in the act.

DWP repairs are part of a $1.3 billion replacement project. The DWP said experts are working to come up with answers to why the water mains have been breaking.

The DWP is supposed to finish its study and report on the serious breaks within 30 days. For a growing number of councilmembers like Perry, that's way too much time.

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