What Happens When a Water Main Breaks?
If you have never seen water mains break, it can be hard to visualize the force and drama that results from it. Water main pipes are under high pressure, so a broken pipe results in a powerful stream of water, capable of shooting several feet in the air and releasing large volumes of water very quickly.
Global news and CBC have reported many instances in the past year of water main breaks. Perhaps most scary are those articles in which the water main quickly begins to flood a basement. In one instance, this basement was being used as a daycare for small children, and it quickly began to fill with water. Thankfully, everyone was safely evacuated.
What Causes a Water Main Break?
Corrosion is the number one cause of water main breaks. Older water mains were constructed with cast iron, which is prone to rust over time. The corrosion and rust can cause blockages, resulting in a pressure build up, and weakened pipes can crack or develop holes from which the water can burst forth. Temperature changes (freezing and thawing), as well as tree roots can accelerate and further exacerbate this issue.
Signs of a Water Main Break
Usually if a water main has burst, there are clear and obvious signs. Not all water main bursts will have 4 foot geysers flowing forth. Some breaks can result in a slow leak, gradually dumping large quantities of water into the surrounding ground. This can create a very wet, swampy ground, and can cause flooding in a basement or crawl space, or in extreme cases corrode and damage a home's foundation.
How is This Fixed?
The water should first be turned off as quickly as possible, and then the broken pipe will need to be replaced. This can be simple or difficult, depending on where the pipe is, what the extent of the damage is, and what the pipe is buried under. Water main repairs should be conducted by a professional who can properly assess the damage, and provide a fix that is as simple and cost effective as possible. New methods of pipe placement may help to avoid cutting up concrete or asphalt ground.