Water main break diverts traffic from SE Division Street

Find out what it took to repair this outer East Portland major water main rupture in the Centennial neighborhood …

Westbound SE Division Street is closed, as Portland Water Bureau workers “dig in” to fix a deep water-main break, far below the pavement.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

As in all municipalities where outdoor temperatures drop below freezing, when the “big chill” hit Portland in mid-December, water mains began to break.

Crews with the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) were kept very busy since December 19th responding to 35 water main breaks across Portland. One of them disrupted both water delivery – and street traffic – starting early on January 2.

While many people were taking the day off, due to the New Year’s Holiday, PWB crews were dispatched to SE Division Street at 157th Avenue to look into a major water line break around 5:30 p.m. that evening.

Deeper and deeper they dig, to reach the broken water main.

“It’s difficult to determine the exact cause of main breaks – so it’s unclear if weather contributed to this particular break, in the Centennial neighborhood,” pointed out PWB Public Information Officer Felicia Heaton.

Holiday or not, crews dug in and worked around-the-clock to make an emergency repair to the pipe – a 6-inch cast iron water main installed in 1962. The repair was completed about 3:00 a.m. on January 4, Heaton told East Portland News.

Crews excavate the area, being careful not to disrupt the other utilities running under SE Division Street.

“All main breaks come with their own unique challenges, but crews typically follow the same process to replace a water pipe,” Heaton said.

Charles Smith, the PWB Deputy Director of Maintenance and Construction outlined the work done: “In this case, we broke a hole in the street and excavated around the damaged pipe. We cut out the old pipe, and installed a section of new pipe that we hope will last for decades.

“This repair had its challenges: It was deep, and it had other utilities around the pipe, making the repair longer than usual, not to mention the traffic control involved due to its location,” explained Smith.

“With the new pipe installed, we filled the trench and returned the street to conditions that are safe for travelers,” Smith added. “City crews will return later, as weather allows, to perform the paving needed to return the street to its original condition, if not better.”

Considering the complexity of this repair, in less than two days the repair was completed and both water and traffic were again flowing.

“We know how inconvenient construction can be, and we do our best to keep a small footprint,” commented Smith. “But sometimes, these repairs just require space. And there’s always something to celebrate where we’re done: The newer the pipe, the stronger the water system.”

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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