Meet the Mainline Break Repair Crew in Public Utilities
You probably already know that the city’s water is delivered to homes and businesses throughout the city via a network of underground pipes. Although the city’s engineers use the most up-to-date technology to predict potential problems with these aging pipes in order to fix or replace them before they break, we can’t yet predict them all. When a pipe breaks, rain or shine, holiday, or middle of the night, our dedicated mainline break repair team rushes out to fix these breaks and restore water service as soon as possible.
The mainline break crew is comprised of three teams of four workers. Since a mainline break can happen at any time, there is a crew on call 24 hours a day. As one team member said, “You can pretty much count on getting a call right as you’re about to sit down to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. That just always seems to happen.”
When the call comes, the team rushes to action. Once a mainline repair crew is on the scene, their first task is to confirm that it is a Sandy-owned water line that is broken. If it is, they shut down the water valves to a lower flow and call in the “blue stakers” from other utilities. Each cable company, gas company, and power company must send their own representative to mark out their company’s lines. The water crew cannot legally get started on the repair until the other utility companies have finished their blue staking. So, if you see some public utilities guys waiting to get started on a mainline repair, it is very likely that this is the source of the delay. It is also worth noting that these other companies legally have up to 48 hours to respond to a blue stakes request. Although it rarely takes that long, this is often the biggest delay in fixing a water pipe.
When a mainline break crew is cleared to start work, the digging begins. Our city pipes are generally buried about 4-feet deep and repairs usually take four to six hours. However, a long repair can last 15 hours or more. In order to keep dirt and debris out of the water supply, some water pressure must always be maintained in the pipe. This means that the worksite of the mainline repair crew is always wet and muddy.
On many of these projects, the work truly turns into a citywide effort. If the call comes in from emergency dispatch, it is often the firemen who are first to the scene. If the break has happened in an area of high traffic, Sandy Police will often be called in to help with traffic safety. After the break, the Public Utilities stormwater crew will often get a call to show up with their water pumps for help with clean up. And finally, if the road was torn apart to access the pipe, Public Works usually handles those repairs. It is not an exaggeration to state that delivering safe, clean drinking water is a citywide effort.
If you think you have encountered a mainline break, please do not hesitate to call 911. The delivery of clean drinking water is always a priority.