News Feature | October 31, 2017

Rupture In Detroit Illustrates Breadth Of Main Break Issues

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


A recent water main break in Detroit demonstrated just how calamitous these events can be for water systems. In addition to spilling non-revenue water and requiring extensive rehabilitation, it resulted in a boil water advisory impacting thousands last week.

“7 Action News is receiving reports of low water pressure in Farmington Hills after a water main break on 14 Mile,” WXYZ reported in a regularly-updated online story that serves as a fascinating timeline of how the community addressed the break last week. “Water is covering the road and police are urging drivers to avoid the area. There is no timeline yet for when repairs will be completed.”

The Great Lakes Water Authority was forced to issue a mandatory boil water notice. Local schools closed, hospital patients were moved, eventually water was shut off for the city of Novi, MI, and at least 51,000 were left without water at one point. Though sometimes overlooked when considering the monetary and utility labor consequences of main breaks, this emergency brought to light the water quality issues that these infrastructure failures present as well.

“The concern is sometimes when there’s low pressure in the water system, there’s a possibility that bacterial contamination could occur,” Dr. Tricia Stein told WXYZ in a subsequent report. “Anybody actually is at risk, even a normal healthy person could develop symptoms.”

In the early stages of the break, authorities expected it to take at least a handful of days to address.

“Due to the substantial extent of the current water main failure, repairing this problem and placing public water back into service and removing a Boil Water Advisory, it’s estimated to take at least 4-5 days in duration in order to make necessary repairs and place the entire at-large water system of West Bloomfield into a no boil water status,” local police wrote on Facebook, per WXYZ.

As of late last week, a replacement pipe had been installed and testing was underway.

To read more about water main breaks visit Water Online’s Solutions And Insight For Water Loss Prevention.

Image credit: "Detroit SkylineMike Fritcher, 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: