Update: Pipe repair may not be done before commute

EBMUD workers repair a broken water main at University Avenue and Grant Street, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Photo: David Yee
EBMUD workers repair a broken water main at University Avenue and Grant Street on Tuesday around 11 p.m. Photo: David Yee

Update, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 5:28 a.m. EBMUD says water should be back on for customers by about 8 a.m., according to the latest info, “however work in the street will continue as we work with the city of Berkeley to facilitate coordination of other underground utilities.”

Update, Oct. 5, 4:15 a.m. EBMUD reports: “University Avenue down to one lane but open; Grant is closed. Crews are working now to install the new pipe however we have some utility coordination to do with the city of Berkeley. We are all working to get the customers’ water service back on and the street opened as quickly as we can. Right now it’s unclear if the road will be fully open in time for the morning commute.”

Scroll down for photos and video from the scene.

Update, 5 p.m. EBMUD is now estimating that repairs to a pipe that broke in Berkeley will be done by 2 a.m. Wednesday. The 83-year-old cast iron main was reported to have burst at 12:35 p.m., according to a statement released by the agency just before 5 p.m. Berkeleyside has been reporting updates since 12:41 p.m.


Traffic in the area, on University Avenue and nearby, continues to be disrupted in both directions, and detours are in place.

“With more than 4,200 miles of water pipelines in the EBMUD service area, replacing aging pipelines is a race against time,” the agency reported. EBMUD has launched its Pipeline Rebuild Program to speed replacement. “We are testing various pipe materials that flex with earthquake movement, and pipes whose joints lock and don’t separate. We’re also testing methods and materials to rehabilitate pipelines in the ground with minimal digging and street disruption.”

Burst water main at Grant and University. Photo: Bill Newton
A burst water main at Grant and University has closed roads Tuesday. Photo: Bill Newton
Burst water main. Photo: Heidi Sachs
Workers assess and handle a burst water main on University Avenue. Photo: Heidi Sachs
A water main break and power outage hit University and Grant on Tuesday. Photo: Doug Finley
A water main break and power outage hit University and Grant on Tuesday. Photo: Doug Finley

Update, 3:55 p.m. PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said PG&E is looking into the reason for the power outage to determine whether it was connected to the water main break. As of about 3:50 p.m. cause had not been determined. At its peak, 391 customers were impacted. Power was restored by about 2:15 p.m.

Update, 3:40 p.m. Says EBMUD on Twitter, “We’ll be repairing an 83-year-old pipe tonight so people can shower tomorrow morning.”


Nelsy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for EBMUD, said the 12-inch cast iron pipe broke, leaving 40 customers without water on Grant from University to Allston. She said, as of about 3:40 p.m., that crews were just getting to the digging portion of the repair.

Rodriguez said it’s tough to know definitively why a pipe breaks, but noted that cast iron is the oldest material EBMUD used. It is no longer used by the agency. Once the pipe that broke is removed, EBMUD will attempt to determine what happened.

Berkeley’s terrain and often-shifting ground can contribute to water main breaks, but so can other factors, Rodriguez added.

Burst water main. Photo: Heidi Sachs
A burst water main led to road closures Tuesday morning. Photo: Heidi Sachs
Burst water main at Grant and University. Photo: Kim Aronson
Roads are closed due to a burst water main at Grant and University. Photo: Kim Aronson

Update, 3:30 p.m. EBMUD estimates the repair will now be complete by midnight: “Due to an emergency main break, water service is disrupted at the intersection of University Avenue and Grant Street and on Grant Street from University Avenue to Allston Way.”

Update, 2:50 p.m. According to an automated notice from PG&E, power was restored in Berkeley just before 2:15 p.m.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District website states that the repair for the water main break is slated to be complete by 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

EBMUD wrote that “water service is disrupted at the intersection of University Avenue and Grant Street and on surrounding streets including: University Avenue, Hearst Avenue, Bonita Avenue, Delaware Street, Berkeley Way, Milvia Street, Addison Street, Shattuck Avenue, Center Street, California Street, Sacramento Street.” Stay tuned for updates.

Burst water main at Grant and University. Photo: Kim Aronson
Water pours down the street Tuesday due to a burst water main at Grant and University. Photo: Kim Aronson
Water is coming up through the pavement on University during Tuesday's water main break in Berkeley. Photo: Kim Aronson
Water is coming up through the pavement on University during Tuesday’s water main break in Berkeley. Photo: Kim Aronson

Update, 1:37 p.m. Local resident Heidi Sachs tells us the water has been turned off, as of about 1:30 p.m. And Bill Newton adds, “I would avoid Hearst headed east. Completely clogged.”

According to PGE’s outage map, nearly 400 customers are affected by a power outage in the area.  The outage began just before 12:50 p.m. (Scroll down to see the outage map.)

Original post, 1:04 p.m. The Berkeley Fire Department reports a large water main break on University Avenue at Grant Street.

It began just before 12:40 p.m.

Water is emanating from a rupture in the middle of the intersection as well as pavement seams throughout the intersection, said Deputy Berkeley Fire Chief Donna McCracken.

Traffic is shut down completely east and west on University from McGee Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Way. There’s no cross-traffic on Grant. Additional information on street closures appears below.

EBMUD is at the scene.

There’s no ETA on a resolution, McCracken said.

Residents are also reporting a power outage in the area.

The Berkeley Police Department put out a Nixle alert just before 1 p.m. noting that “As a result of a major water main break the following streets are closed.”

Those streets include University between McGee and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Addison Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and McGee, and southbound MLK from Berkeley Way to Addison: “All are closed to through traffic.”

Burst water main at Grant and University. Photo: Bill Newton
Water bubbles in the street after a water main burst at Grant and University. Photo: Bill Newton
Burst water main. Photo: BFD
The burst water main at Grant and University filled the streets with water. Photo: BFD
According to PG&E's outage map, nearly 400 customers have been affected by a power outage in the area of the water main break.
According to PG&E’s outage map, nearly 400 customers have been affected by a power outage in the area of the water main break. Estimated restoration is listed at 4 p.m. (as of about 1:40 p.m.).
EBMUD workers were on the scene as of about 4:10 p.m. Digging was beginning. Photo: Bill Newton
EBMUD workers on the scene as of about 4:10 p.m. Digging was beginning. Photo: Bill Newton

Berkeleyside will update this post when additional information is available. EBMUD posts periodic updates online about significant incidents.

Have a question about a local public safety incident? Write to crime@berkeleyside.com. Photographs and videos are always appreciated.

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Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior editor of news. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.com. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.