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Water Main Break Damages Longmont Home

December 18, 2018
A city of Longmont crew works to fix a water main break near 12th Avenue and Lanyon Drive on Monday.

As city of Longmont crews race to replace water pipes they know are at risk of springing a leak, dozens of unanticipated pipe breaks occur yearly that require immediate fixing, including one Monday that caused damage to a home.

While water main breaks leading to leaks that infiltrate dwellings are rare, according to city officials, one beneath Lanyon Drive near 12th Avenue occurred around midnight, drawing city crews for an emergency repair that was completed by Monday afternoon.

The leak from the water main seeped through the gravel surrounding a separate wastewater pipe and liquid surfaced in the basement of nearby home, Longmont Public Works and Natural Resources Department leaders Bob Allen and Chris Kampmann said.

The city’s Risk Management department is assessing the damage. It won’t be known for weeks whether the city is at fault and is financially liable for repairs as a potential insurance claim is processed.

“If residents ever see water they haven’t seen before, call the city and we’ll come take a look,” Allen said.

Messages left with a phone number and social media profile associated with the damaged home’s owners were not returned by press time. A private water damage restoration crew was seen working at the home into the afternoon.

A debate was started in 2016 over whether Boulder should pay for repairs after a similar water main break in that city flooded several homes, and officials initially determined Boulder was not at fault.

Boulder officials on Monday were unable to confirm how those residents’ claims with the city were resolved.

Several homes in Longmont’s Lanyon Drive area were left without water for short periods while Monday’s leak was repaired, which is typical during leak repairs, as are drops in water pressure.

Although leaks that allow water into homes are rare, water main breaks in general occur frequently, especially in the winter months, and city officials are on the lookout for any consistent increases year to year.

In the past three years, city pipes have totaled 103 leaks, with 36 in 2016, 23 in 2017 and 44 so far this year, according to Allen.

The increase over the last three years is currently unconcerning to Allen, but if the number of leaks were to leap to more than 50 or to near 60 in 2019, he and other city leaders would determine if the breaks were occurring along the same line and accelerate replacement of that area’s piping if that were the case.

“We’ve had years where we’ve had more than this year. ... The system is aging, but we’re renewing it also at a pretty good pace. We put millions each year into renewing water lines,” Allen said.

Doug Ward, a resident who lives near Monday’s water main break, offered a suggestion on preventing future leaks caused by pipes failing due to their age: “Turn back time.”

Surface temperatures differing from those of below-ground material surrounding the pipes — usually with frozen material beneath and thawed material closer to the surface — make water pipes more vulnerable to breaks, Allen said.

“When there is variability, it becomes a complex environment. This time of year we do see more of it,” he said.

In addition to quick repairs on pipes that spring leaks — which are funded by the Public Works Department’s operating budget — Longmont also plans well in advance pipe replacements in areas in which infrastructure is aging or becoming more vulnerable.

As an example, the city is working to replace 4,000 feet of pipe under Baylor Drive after the stretch endured 22 water main breaks from 1982 through 2016, city officials said.

“We’re always looking at the list and seeing what’s next,” Kampmann said.

The city in 2018 budgeted $1.3 million of five-year capital improvement funds for planned pipe replacements; a total of $5.9 million is budgeted from 2019 through 2022, Allen said.

Gary Archuleta, who also lives nearby the Lanyon Drive pipe that broke, was impressed with the city’s rapid response.

“They showed up at midnight to cause that kind of commotion, I knew it had to be an emergency,” Archuleta said.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

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