Westwood water-main break: At least 48 hours of more repair

ByABC7.com staff via KABC logo
Thursday, July 31, 2014
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LADWP officials said Wednesday that the repair process for the Westwood water-main break is going to take at least 48 more hours, targeting Friday for re-opening Sunset Blvd.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The cleanup continues in Westwood as crews try to find a way to repair Sunset Boulevard following the massive water-main break that spewed millions of gallons of water onto streets and the UCLA campus.

Officials said Wednesday that the repair process is going to take longer than originally expected. According to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, water continues to flow to the work site, preventing crews from repairs. The DWP and city officials said construction would last at least another 48 hours. Workers are trying to have Sunset Boulevard re-opened by Friday. Work was continuing around the clock, a city official said.

Wednesday afternoon, water was leaking at a rate of about 1,000 gallons per minute; earlier in the day water had been leaking at a rate of about 4,000 gallons per minute, according to the DWP. LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager Jim McDaniel said about 20 million gallons of water were discharged from the broken main Tuesday night, revising an earlier figure of about 8- to 10-million gallons. The flow of water was finally shut off in the 9 p.m. hour Wednesday.

McDaniel said two pipes were connected to the rupture at a juncture. The first pipe was shut off but the second could not be immediately stopped. An inflatable pump was to be used to plug the the rupture, he said.

"The water flow is the result of valves in the trunk line that have not been able to be fully closed. Crews estimate the valves are approximately 95-percent closed, but will not turn further, consequently, the rate of water flowing through the pipe and draining into the work area is still too high to begin work," LADWP said in a statement. "LADWP water system engineers are developing alternate solutions to get the water shut off as soon as possible."

"Normally, a break of this size, we would just go in and cut out a section of pipe and replace it really quick, but this is located where two large diameter pipes come together and is creating a lot of complexity for us," said Jeff Bray with the LADWP.

The water-main burst was reported shortly before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at 10643 West Sunset Boulevard. The street remains closed in both directions from Hilgard to Veteran avenues.

Three different valves had to be shut down in a certain order at a certain rate to avoid pressure and potential breaks at other locations along the line, according to officials. The 93-year-old ruptured pipe is about 30 inches in diameter and was pushing out about 75,000 gallons per minute at its peak Tuesday afternoon, DWP officials said. Tuesday night DWP officials said about 8-10 million gallons of water were lost during the entire incident; during a Wednesday afternoon news conference, that figure was revised to an estimated 20-million gallons lost. The water went into storm drains and onto a portion of the UCLA campus.

Water inundated six structures on campus, including the Pauley Pavilion, which underwent a $133-million renovation in 2012. Crews worked through the night to try to save the wooden floor, but UCLA officials say it has been damaged. The J.D. Morgan Center also sustained extensive damage. Pauley Pavilion was expected to be repaired in time for the fall college basketball season.

"Basically, it had eight to 10 inches of water all over the court. Crews worked through the night to try to get that water removed and they're currently in the drying process. The court is showing a little sign of buckling and expansion. Whether we'll be able to save that court, I don't know," said Kelly Schmader, assistant vice chancellor at UCLA.

There were 900 vehicles stuck inside parking structures 4 and 7, which remain closed due to flooding. The water level reached the ceilings in some parts of the structures. Some vehicles were completely inundated while others were surrounded by a couple of feet of water. Block said the first order of business for the campus was to retrieve stranded vehicles for waiting employees, students and visitors. People would likely not be able to retrieve their cars until Friday, officials said.

UCLA officials say people who parked their cars in those structures should visit www.transportation.ucla.edu for information on how to get their vehicles.

"We've extended to (employees/staff) the opportunity to take administrative leave with pay, if they choose, or they can telecommute by talking with their supervisors and working from home. Last thing we want to do is have them worry primarily about coming to work. They have other bigger issues to worry about at this time," said Schmader.

No one was injured during the flooding, but several vehicles were stranded and five citizens were assisted, according to the LAFD.

Officials say they can't speculate on what caused the leak at this time.

L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, chairman of Public Works, said the incident underscores an critical need for the city to invest in infrastructure. About 20 breaks per year occur in the city, according to the DWP. Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the affected area, said the DWP currently has a 100-year replacement rate for aging pipes.


PHOTOS: Sunset Boulevard flooding in Westwood