Featured NEWS

Water main repair was complicated

City workers repair a major water main break and sinkhole at the intersection of Scripps Lake Drive and Scripps Ranch Boulevard. (photo by John Gregory)

Water main repair was complicated

By John Gregory

By now, most Scripps Ranch residents know that a major water main break which burst the morning of May 19, and a subsequent nearby sinkhole, have been repaired at the intersection of Scripps Ranch Boulevard and Scripps Lake Drive – and all nearby lanes of street traffic have been open for a few weeks.

But repairs took much longer than expected and Scripps Ranch Boulevard – a major traffic artery in the middle of the community – was severed for weeks. The lane closures made travelling north and south difficult, and made morning commutes and school drop-offs especially troublesome for many days with major traffic congestion ballooning out to other nearby driving arteries. All lanes finally opened going both directions on June 7, although more days of follow-up work remained.

Juan Guerreiro, director of Public Utilities for the City of San Diego, described the problems and explained the complexity of the repairs. 

“There are a lot of utilities in that area. There are a lot of water pipes in that area,” Guerreiro said. “There is a 12-inch pipeline that connects to a 20-inch pipeline, and there was a corroded section of pipe in the 12-inch pipeline that broke and caused a hole to open up.”

While City workers located and worked on the initial leak, more fractures occurred.

“So, when we went to address the issue, we got the initial repair, but because of all the connections and a lot of the bends that are in the water system at that location, it caused some damage within the system at other locations. … there were subsequent leaks that had to be investigated,” he said. “Sometimes we open up these breaks and address the initial break location. You’re able to button it up pretty quickly – and that’s that. But in this case, we saw some additional water seeping out of the trenches. … So, we have to isolate the pipeline, open it up and find out what’s going on. … We had to do additional investigations and repairs.” 

Residents might have noticed City water crews operating along streets blocks away from the original water break.  

“Typically, what crews will do on the side streets is when they go to isolate the water main break, they have to close valves that are in other locations,” Guerreiro said. “The way we design our water system is to be able to isolate certain locations by closing those valves, but also to open other valves to minimize the impacts to customers.”

City crews investigated additional sightings of water bubbling up from the streets following the initial repairs. Guerreiro said all possibilities were explored, including looking into nearby irrigation pipes. It turns out this area of Scripps Ranch Boulevard is a hotbed of underground utilities.

“It’s a big grid of water pipes,” Guerreiro said.

Besides the City drinking water pipes, there are County Water Authority pipes, recycled water pipes, it’s close to the Miramar Water Treatment Plant and Reservoir, near the Pure Water Program construction and other utilities.

“It was a big break. It was very impactful; very tough location, especially with the school there,” Guerreiro said, adding that some members of his team reside in Scripps Ranch.

He explained that they didn’t feel right about walking away from the project before all the leaks and water pressure issues were addressed.

“We were really happy when the team was able to get a few lanes open right before Memorial Day weekend. … We wanted to get everything open a lot sooner,” Guerreiro said.