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November 16, 2009 (San Diego’s East County) – A series of water main breaks in East County over the weekend have led some area residents to ask what’s caused so many infrastructure failures.


On Friday, November 13th, a water main break at the corner of La Mesa Blvd. and 4th Street sent large amounts of water flowing down La Mesa Blvd. and Allison Ave., causing damage to at least two businesses including the new Bella Mesa Art Gallery. Heartland Fire dispatched a response at 11:29 a.m. Fire crews closed roads and evacuated some businesses and restaurants. But damage could have been worse. 


“We got lucky,” Sonny Saghera, public information officer for La Mesa Fire Deparetment, told East County Magazine. “We were actually right by that when the call came in,” he said, adding that quick action by Helix Water to shut off the water helped minimize damage.

“The break on Friday at Allison and La Mesa Blvd. was from a piece of eight-inch cast iron that was left in the ground during an upgrade in 2003. We are investigating how that happened,” Kate Breece, public affairs manager for Helix Water District, informed East County Magazine. “The three customers were were impacted have been high-lined, moving the pipe out of the “planter” area and into the street,” she said.  Helix had cleanup crews on the scene within an hour to help minimize damage to customers’ properties. “We closed the hold on Friday night to allow for normal commerce and scheduled a midnight shutdown in order not to impact businesses and passerby,”  Breece said, adding that pipe repair will be completed later this week or early next week.

On Sunday at 11:50 a.m., a water main break at Rolando Knolls and Gordon Way in La Mesa caused minor damage to two homes, Heartland Fires. A La Mesa Fire engine was dispatched, arriving within minutes to close roads, contact Helix Water and assist with water removal. Helix Water shut off water to 32 homes and summoned a water truck to deliver water to residents during repairs until water was restored at 630 p.m.

Breece said the break Sunday in the Rolando area was caused by a piece of six-inch cast iron pipe that was put in the ground 62 years ago and was scheduled for replacement. “We have replaced over 75% of the cast iron in our district, and we replaced it at a rate of about 5 miles each year,” Breece said. “As the temperature falls in the autumn, we sometimes experience a number of breaks as the cooler ground temperatures and cooler water temperatures appear to weaken cast iron.”

Last fiscal year (2008-09), Helix Water had a total of 40 breaks, of which seven were cast iron. So far this fiscal year (2009-10), there have been 17 water main breaks, of which 6 have been cast iron.

In the Eucalyptus Hills area, Lakeside Fire responded to a water main break in the predawn hours on Sunday in the 11200 block of Manzanita Road. “An assessment was made of the downstream area and only minor flooding was found,” Captain Mark Grow, Lakeside Fire Protection District, wrote on Heartland Fire’s blog. CHP closed Manzanita Road briefly until Lakeside Water District’s crew arrive on scene to control the leak. ECM has requested info on cause of the Eucalyptus Hills break and will publish the response here once received.

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