Metropolitan Utilities District crews are hard at work all over town repairing broken water lines. This year, the utility is on a record pace dealing with 250 breaks. Why so many?
The reason for so many breaks is simple. The system is old. MUD officials bet some of the cast iron pipes seen in an Omaha Water Works photo from the 1890s are still underground carrying our water.
“Our system, actually, we have mains in our system that date back over 125 years so we've gotten a lot of life out of them, but the cast iron system is quite old,” says MUD’s Jeff Schovanec. “We stopped installing cast iron in the 1970s and transitioned to ductilite, which is a better material than cast iron."
A lot of that old cast iron was placed under cobblestone streets years ago. There are still more than 1,200 miles of that old pipe underground and sometimes it becomes brittle and break and sometimes we can see the results of that break. One near 72nd and Blondo shut down traffic on the major street and forced more traffic to detour through the neighborhood where Ashley Hall and her children live.
“People are getting lost in the neighborhood. It’s confusing to get back to Blondo, you have to go down and around.”
The water main breaks are an inconvenience. Not only does it affect Ashley and her daily walk, it also affects the pocketbooks of all rate payers.
“The rate payers are actually helping to fund the replacement charges,” says Schovanec. “Right now, we have gas and water infrastructure charges and up to the part in time it's been pay as you go operation for us. We collect a considerable amount of money and working hard to spend that money on infrastructure replacement.”
Hopefully the new replacement pipes will last as long as the old ones. It will take years to replace all of the old cast iron mains throughout the city.