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City's water mains burst at record rate

Officials uncertain what caused 12 breaks By David Griner The Journal Gazette

As Fort Wayne City Utilities crews completed a marathon effort to repair 12 water main breaks Monday, officials still were uncertain what sparked the destructive chain reaction.

The city reported 11 main breaks Sunday and one Monday in no clear pattern. Two City Utilities crews began working about 8 a.m. Sunday morning and continued to repair or replace pipe through Monday afternoon.

Cost estimates for the repairs and overtime pay required were not available Monday.

Jerry Schoenle, city water maintenance superintendent, offered a possible scenario that could have created the rash of water main breaks. He said river water coming into the municipal filtration system might have changed the water temperature in a main enough to break it.

The resulting shift in water pressure could have sent a jolt through the pipe system, rupturing or splitting aging water mains across the city, Schoenle said.

"It could have just created enough velocity in the pipe," he said. "The water can really start rumbling."

Each of the 12 pipe sections damaged had been deteriorated by age, he said.

Officials were unsure how many residents or businesses were without water Sunday and Monday. Service was restored to most neighborhoods in about three hours, Schoenle said.

A McDonald's restaurant manager said the eatery at 6810 Bluffton Road had to close for two hours Monday because of the break that occurred nearby.

City administrators said water main breaks are common throughout the year but are seen most often during rapid temperature changes.

"You can have a main break anytime," Schoenle said. "What makes it unique here is there were 10 or 11 of them in one day."


-- Martin Thompson (, June 26, 2001

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