Crews Repair Superior St. Water Main Break, Could Cost Duluth $20 K

By KBJR News 1

January 2, 2013 Updated Jan 2, 2013 at 9:56 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - 7 West Taphouse, which sits just a few yards away from the break site, had to close shortly after 4 PM on Tuesday due to their loss of water pressure following the rupture.
While their water has returned and business is open, they say the closed section of Superior Street and rumors associated with the break have kept business unusually slow.

"[People] think, 'oh, the water broke right in front of them, so they don't have water,' but it's not true," said Erin Krois, who manages the 4–month old taphouse.

Krois said the thought that this could happen again is discouraging: "It can be discouraging as a business because we want the people to come in."

Multiple factors go into the average water main break, including age and depth of the pipe, electrolysis, and the freezing and thawing of the ground that can shift and break pipes, which Duluth Chief Engineer of Utilities Eric Shaffer says this was most likely the case this time.

"The pipe moved enough that it actually broke about a 2–foot section out of it, which caused a severe leak," said Shaffer.

The issue looking ahead, says Shaffer, is determining the most cost–effective means of making water main repairs, and ensuring they won't happen again.

Officials say one way to kill two birds with one stone is by coordinating street repairs with infrastructure repairs and replacements.

"With Superior Street specifically, if a project is ever done to redo the surface of Superior Street, we will replace that main at that time," said Shaffer.

But as the frequency and severity of the breaks increase with time, Duluth Mayor Don Ness says finding more permanent solutions to these costly repairs is a top priority for the city.

"Unless and until we get ahead of this issue and start reducing those breaks, it's going to be very costly for the citizens of Duluth," said Mayor Ness.

Ness added that the city made it a policy a few years ago to repair underground infrastructure during road and street repairs, even if the infrastructure looks relatively sound.

A program leader with the Minnesota Sea Grant at UMD, says even with the hundreds of thousands of gallons that rushed onto the streets, the threat to Lake Superior and marine life is minimal and the surge of water was no worse than a normal snow melt.

So far, officials estimate the total cost of the Superior St. main break could be in the range of $15,000 - $20,000. The average break costs the city and its taxpayers roughly $7,000 - $8,000.

Posted to the web by Billy Wagness