Update: Water restored to Berkeley Marina after burst pipe caused major outage

Guests at the DoubleTree hotel and others in the area were without running water after a main break Tuesday afternoon cut the supply to the entire Berkeley Marina.

EBMUD crews work to fix a broken pipe near the University Avenue onramp to westbound I-80 on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Update Jan. 15: Water service was restored at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook.

Original story: Guests at the DoubleTree hotel and others in the area are without running water after a pipe burst Tuesday afternoon and cut the supply to the entire Berkeley Marina.

A 12-inch water main north of University Avenue between the freeway and Frontage Road broke in the afternoon, East Bay Municipal Utility District spokeswoman Andrea Pook told Berkeleyside. Pook didn’t say what time the break happened, but naval architect Paul Kamen, who was in the area, said he saw flooding while driving south on Frontage at about 3:15 p.m.

Technically, only 48 EBMUD customers are without water, but given that they include the DoubleTree, as well as Skates restaurant and Hana Japan Steak and Seafood, the impact is significant.

EBMUD’s outage map shows 48 customers affected by the water main break on Jan. 14, 2020. Image: EBMUD

EBMUD crews have been working to find a fix but the task is a challenge, Pook said, as the pipe is deeply buried and there is a lot of water in the affected area.

“Crews have been dewatering so they can make the repair,” Pook said. “They need to proceed carefully so the equipment doesn’t get stuck.” Pumps remove the water so the workers can see what’s going on. Meanwhile, PG&E marks off its utilities before any repair work is done, she said.

EBMUD got notice Tuesday morning about water seepage in the vicinity and went out to investigate, Pook said.

Six portable toilets were set up outside the DoubleTree on Jan. 14, 2020, after a broken main cut the water supply to the hotel. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeleyside reporter Emilie Raguso was on the scene around 8:30 p.m. She spoke with DoubleTree assistant manager Christopher Ross, who said the hotel had set up portable toilets for guests, as well as hand-washing stations. It also provided large containers of water and bottled water in each room. Ross said, in his five years working at the DoubleTree, he had never encountered a situation like this.

While he talked to Berkeleyside, Ross fielded calls and in-person inquiries from guests wondering when water might be restored. Asked whether patrons were being understanding, Ross said, “Some people are.”


Northbound Frontage Road was closed at University so the repair work could take place. A half-dozen or so utility trucks with lights flashing were parked in the northbound lane. One EBMUD worker said she had come to assess whether there could be concerns about contamination. Other workers filled a generator with fuel to help pump water away from the affected pipe. The wide grassy area where the water main broke was muddy and workers donned tall rubber boots for protection. Multiple hoses were set up to help move water across Frontage Road to help with drainage.

EBMUD posted a tweet around 4:30 p.m. alerting people to the broken pipe and asking them to avoid the area.

Kamen, who was watching the television broadcast of the Democratic Party primary debate at the Berkeley Yacht Club, said by email that water had been shut off in the entire marina area around 5 p.m. “No bathrooms functional, no water to the BYC kitchen or bar, so both had to be shut down and the yacht club ended up with a lot of disappointed rental guests and a huge pile of dirty dishes,” he wrote. He added that “some people were reportedly hauling buckets of sea water from the harbor up to the club to flush toilets.”

When water will be back is an open question. Although EBMUD is predicting on its website a 4 a.m. restoration, Pook said there are too many unknowns to be sure.”It’s like a kitchen remodel,” she said. “It’s complicated so I’m hesitant to say.”

Water is certain to be out overnight, she added.

EBMUD does not know what caused the rupture.

“Our goal is to get the water back on,” Pook said, adding: “Main breaks are always a good reminder to have emergency water storage in hand for situations like this or an earthquake.”

Just before 9:30 p.m. Pook contacted Berkeleyside to say PG&E had marked its gas lines, “so our crew can start digging. Then we will have a better sense of how long the repair will take.”

This developing story was updated as we gathered new information. Berkeleyside’s Emilie Raguso reported from the scene.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.