At least two properties were damaged after an 8-inch portable water line suddenly stopped working Wednesday night, causing thousands of gallons of water to spew into a neighborhood on the east side of Milpitas.
The broken water line, located underneath La Crosse Drive and between Ellwell and Findley drives, caused extensive damage, according to Kathleen Phalen, acting engineer and public works director for the City of Milpitas.
“Two properties have been damaged. We don't think it's the house structure itself, but certainly fences along La Crosse [are damaged] and one property had a garden shed that was up heaved," she said. "The [garden shed] homeowner wants us to try and salvage it. If at all possible, we're going to try to put it back the way it was.”
Five department crew members responded to the area sometime after 5 p.m. Wednesday, and worked until around 1 a.m. to shut off the water and clean the street, which was covered in slushy mud.
“When that water flowed out under pressure it drug a lot of mud up with it,” Phalen said. “For that reason we’re asking the public not to walk past the closed sidewalk area [on La Crosse Drive]. It’s very dirty, with very slick mud."
Ten homes lost regular water service once the water line was shut off, but residents responded positively to crew members despite the inconvenience.
"The neighborhood was wonderful," Phalen said. "I understand from my crew that they were very kind and considerate."
Phalen said engineers don’t know what caused the water pipe to break, and that it's possible they'll never find out. Since the water is under pressure, something as simple as a little crack can often be the culprit, she said.
Based on the extent of visible damage, engineers believe the source of the break is almost exactly midway between Ellwell and Findley drives.
“There are two houses along La Crosse Drive. One address is on Findley and one is on Ellwell, and it's right there where their property line would be,” Phalen said.
The department is in the process of setting up contracts to have the water pipe repaired, which is expected to be done by Thursday. However, Phalen said the defunct pipe is just the beginning of repairs that will be needed to the area.
“Repairs are needed to the streets, fences and properties that are damaged, which will take longer, but the first thing we'll repair is the water pipe,” she said.
A segment of the water pipe will likely need to be replaced, along with sections of the sidewalk where the water pipe lined the gutter, Phalen said. Patch work, which entails the cutting and extraction of small damaged areas that are paved temporarily, will be used to replace the pavement until the total section of the street can be replaced.
The needed repairs require specialized equipment that will need to be contracted out, and it's uncertain how long the process will take.
As of now, the department is working with contractors from Preston Pipelines to figure out when they’ll be able to fix the damage to the street and properties.
“We consider this an emergency, and were going to be treating it as an emergency repair to get it done as fast as possible,” Phalen said.
Patch will update this article when and if more information becomes available.