Alameda water main breaks, cutting off service, causing damage
Jul 27, 2023
ALAMEDA — A corroded, 12-inch cast-iron EBMUD water main cracked open around 4:30 p.m. Aug. 2, transforming a 200-yard swath on the 2900 block of Lincoln Avenue into a temporary creek on the city’s East End as the water rose over the curb and overflowed into scores of front yards and flooded one basement with about 3 feet of water.
An Alameda Fire Department crew from Battalion One arrived on-scene first, around 5 p.m., after Alameda police were called and notified them and EBMUD (the East Bay Municipal Utility District) around 4:45 p.m. Lincoln Avenue traffic was temporarily closed in both directions from 3001 to 2929 Lincoln Ave., according to an Alameda County emergency services alert.
Firefighters tried to stem the flow by shutting off a hydrant valve under a street cap but to no avail, as seven separate EBMUD main water line valves had to be located and turned off one-by-one by an EBMUD supervisor who arrived around 5:40 p.m.
With the water finally cut off around 6:30 p.m. — leaving scores of nearby homes without water for up to 20 hours before service was restored — EBMUD repair crews toiled in the dark with heavy equipment to excavate the area and remove the faulty section of pipe. Repairs were completed that night at a time an EBMUD spokesperson could not specify.
Delorean Johnson, an EBMUD water distribution crew foreman, said on the scene that the burst pipe dated to the late 1880s and had over time been subject to “electrolysis” –- corrosion in layman’s terms — before popping open with high-pressure water gushing its way up through the surrounding sand and asphalt.
The old pipe remains, along with hundreds of miles of cast-iron counterparts all over Alameda, spliced today with an approximately 8-foot length of new PVC pipe, which EBMUD uses on all of its ongoing pipe-line replacement projects.
By morning, cleanup crews from Alameda’s Public Works Department, along with those from EBMUD, were on-scene and busy for hours with the arduous task of skip loading, water vacuuming and hand shoveling the tons of wet sand that remained in the flood’s aftermath.
EBMUD has a risk management phone number, 510-287-0175, for those affected to call and discuss damage claims, or customers can file claims online at ebmud.com/customers/file-claim.
Residents can file claims directly with EBMUD, though EBMUD clearly prefers that customers file claims first with their insurers, presumably to minimize their payouts, adding that no investigation by EBMUD will be needed to determine the cause of the damage and value of property impacts.
The agency announced that that it also sent out a specialist to the area to notify those impacted of how they can seek reimbursement for damage.
Larry Freeman is an award-winning former journalism and social studies teacher at Lafayette’s Acalanes High School who has lived in Alameda since 1980.
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