DPU repairs water main break

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County estimates 100,000-200,000 gallons of water leaked before crews repaired break

By Tris DeRoma

A water main leak that opened up Friday night, Feb. 3 in an underground, 16-inch water main at the Los Alamos Golf Course has been fixed.
County utility crews repaired the break by Sunday evening. The county estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 gallons of water leaked from the main before crews were able to fix it.
Officials from the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities weren’t sure of the exact amount, since they were able to successfully keep water flowing to the 1,600 customers DPU serves in the area.
“It’s hard to tell because we’re looking at the water tanks, but there’s also people still using the water at that time. It’s hard know what was being consumed by North Mesa and Barranca Mesa and was actually being lost,” DPU Spokeswoman Julie Williams-Hill.  
The value of the water was estimated to be about $1,000.   
The main served communities in North Mesa and Barranca Mesa. Customers had water throughout the weekend without interruption. In order to repair it, crews had to dig a 25-foot hole in the ground to get access to the leak. In order to keep repair crews safe from cave ins, the crews approached the leak by “benching” the soil. While that meant it took longer to get at the leak, crews were kept safe.
“If it was vertical and you had crews down there working in that wet, unstable soil, you’d have a really serious condition,” Williams-Hill said.
DPU employees testing a nearby pump house first noticed something was wrong when the water didn’t look like the usual water runoff they’re used to seeing at this time of year. After the DPU was called out and all the other utility and communication lines in the area were located, DPU started digging.
“They noticed some water running down into the golf course and that’s not normal this time of year because use water from the treatment plant to water the golf course and not fresh water,” DPU Gas, Water, Sewer Shop Supervisor Jeff Romero said.
The cause of the leak was material failure in the line. The main was installed some time in 2005.