Denver Water has a few programs it runs to try to prevent water main breaks, said Todd Hartman, a Denver Water spokesperson.
According to Denver Water’s 2018 article, Denver Water invests more than $2 million annually on its cathodic protection systems, which are systems that help divert corrosion away from pipes and prevent breakage. These systems involve connecting a block of magnesium or zinc to a pipe, diverting the corrosion away from the pipe.
These blocks are then monitored and once they become too corroded, they can be replaced — a cheaper alternative to replacing an entire pipe. However, the article stated, it’s not feasible to install these protection systems on all Denver Water pipes.
In addition to the protection systems, Denver Water also operates a proactive pipe replacement program to help prevent pipes from breaking, Hartman said.
“We look at the age of pipes; we look at the corrosive nature of the soil in some areas. And so we get out ahead and we replace pipes before they break,” Hartman said. He did not say how old a pipe typically needs to be for it to be considered a risk for breaking and in need of a replacement.
“Sometimes when you see Denver Water crews in the street, they may not even be repairing a broken pipe. They may be working on an installation of new pipe, just to get ahead of that problem,” Hartman said. “Just another reason to ask people to be patient with those things.”
Denver Water, Colorado’s largest water utility, concluded that corrosion led to the June 14 water main break in Centennial on a residential street near Arapahoe High School.
“Corrosive soils were responsible for the break,” said Todd Hartman, a Denver Water spokesperson, in an email June 17.
The June 14 break happened sometime before 6:30 a.m. in the 7600 block of South Detroit Street between East Irwin Place and East Jamison Avenue, Hartman said. Large amounts of water flowed down South Detroit Street toward East Dry Creek Road, and much of the water gathered at the southwest corner of the intersection where there are drains.
Denver Water was able to isolate the break and turn off water for that area by 7:10 a.m., Hartman said. Water was turned off for 23 homeowners in the area while Denver Water addressed the issue. Denver Water was able to replace the pipe and temporarily fix the damage on South Detroit Street by about 4 or 5 p.m. on June 14, he said, and water was turned back on for residents about 4 p.m.
Initially, Denver Water did not know the cause of the break. A lot of factors can lead to a break, Hartman said, such as the age of the pipe, the materials the pipe is made of, changes in water pressure, temperature changes and soil corrosion.
In this case, the pipe that broke was a 12-inch cast-iron pipe dating to 1974. Hartman said the size and material are fairly common in Denver Water’s system, and that cast-iron pipes have performed “reasonably well,” indicating the pipe materials were not responsible for the break.
“We don’t typically know right away what causes these,” Hartman said about water main breaks during a June 16 phone interview. “We do try to take a look afterwards and get a better sense of why they happen, but that tends to take some time.”
During the June 16 interview, Hartman said the cause of the water main break was unknown. The following day, he said Denver Water concluded its investigation into the break and determined that corrosive soils were responsible.
“This is a cause of many breaks,” Hartman said in the June 17 email.
According to a 2018 article published by Denver Water, corrosion is a “chemical reaction that causes metals to decay when they are in contact with the humidity, soil and water in the surrounding environment.” The corrosion in the soil will deteriorate the pipes to the point that they eventually break.
By Tayler Shaw
This video, taken June 17, 2022, shows South Detroit Street, where a water main break occurred on June 14. The water traveled downhill towards East Dry Creek Road.
Denver Water has received reports of some landscape damage that the Centennial water main break caused, Hartman said. He did not say how many reports have been received so far.
“There is visible damages to yard fronts along the back of sidewalk where the water resurfaced,” said Allison Wittern, the communications director of the City of Centennial, in an email June 17.
For those whose property was impacted by the water main break, Denver Water has a program called the “no-fault main break assistance program” that can help residents pay for damage. Insured losses are not eligible for payment, according to Denver Water’s website. Those interested in learning more can visit the program’s webpage: denverwater.org/main-break-help.
In addition to the landscape damage, the water main break also caused damage to roads, which Denver Water is responsible for repairing and fixing.
“There is severe undermining along the asphalt roadway and some areas of sidewalk curb and gutter that warrant repairs,” Wittern said, adding that the city is not responsible for the damages.
Wittern said the South Detroit Street area was evaluated June 16 and it was determined that the span of repairs will include repairing the asphalt as well as some parts of the street’s sidewalk, curb and gutter. The city will meet with Denver Water to get this scheduled, Wittern said.
For those interested in contacting Denver Water, the customer care phone number is: 303-893-2444.
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