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Crews clean Van Nuys water main mess

November 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A new water main break created a towering, Yellowstone-like geyser in Van Nuys Boulevard Monday morning, and the cause of the rupture remains a mystery.The 54-inch water main broke around 10:30 a.m. Monday in the intersection between Sherman Way and Van Nuys Boulevard. DWP was able to shut off the water by a little past 11:30 a.m. Fortunately, there were no injuries and no damage done to surrounding buildings, but it was still quite a sight to see.

The main's explosive current reached almost half the height as Old Faithful and attracted many local onlookers.

"I was driving by and I saw it. It was gushing all over the place. It was amazing," described Everet Altamirano of Van Nuys. "It looked kind of scary because it was so high up in the air. I thought the ground was going to explode or something."

The water from the break shot about 40 to 50 feet into the air. It was recycled water used for irrigation and industrial purposes. While it gave off a foul odor for some time, the break did not affect regular water service.

"This is a recycled water line, and this is the first break I've been on in a recycled water line of this size out here," said Steve Malinoski of DWP.

"The other ones was domestic water and this is recycled water. There is no danger to the public out here. You just don't want to drink it, but there's not going to be a problem. There should be nobody out of water," Malinoski added.

Though officials do not know exactly what caused Monday's break, they do know that the break cannot be attributed to the city's aging water system.

"There's no indication that it is, because it was installed about 1998, and we're at the top of our cycle and coming down and actually the leaks have subsided substantially. Last month and November look encouraging," said Malinoski.

The cleanup is under way, and the DWP said that it will be a day or two before they can get things all fixed. They are still investigating the cause of the breakage.

It's been a troubling couple of months for the DWP. On Sept. 5, a giant 64-inch water main that burst under Coldwater Canyon freed tons of water that headed for Ventura Boulevard's homes and shops. Store owners say they've suffered damages and in some cases, adding up to more than $250,000.

David Mills owns the Garden Temple, a specialized garden show. The shop got its share of water, but it didn't hurt the plants and sculptures. Most of his business comes from decorators, but his foot traffic is off 30 percent because of the closed businesses around him, including the cafe and bakery Le Pain Quotidien which remains closed but may reopen by Thanksgiving, which will be welcomed news to all.

The antique and one-of-a-kind furniture store, the Atik, lost nearly everything to water damage. Most of the merchandise had to be thrown away.

Owners of Faire Frou Frou, a luxury lingerie store, thought that they'd be able to reopen a few weeks after the water main break, but in reality, they foresee reopening in early December.

"It's been very frustrating, and it's been a difficult process working with our insurance company, and actually, no response to date from the DWP," said Alison Rubk, owner of Faire Frou Frou.

"The DWP has not said a single word to us about this event," Rubk said, adding that her attempts to contact DWP were only met with generic responses instructing her to fill out a claim.

Rubk is one of 12 business owners to have suffered damage from the water main flood. According to a DWP spokesman, only one of the businesses has filed a claim with documentation, while others have only indicated that their claims will be filed.

There have been 50 claims by businesses and residents as a result of the water main break. Some have been paid by insurance, but insurance doesn't pay for the stress and the lost customers.


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