You leave on your evening commute, only to find that water is flowing across the road between you and home. You realize it’s a water main break. What should you do? You might be tempted to ignore it. However, there are some steps you should take. For instance, if the water smells, it may be sewage – do not walk through it. Even if the leak is not sewage, walking through any active leak is never a good idea
Report any Water Main Break to your Utility
Although utilities do monitor water pressure and leaks, they often find out about a water main break when a resident reports it. Most water authorities have a hotline for reporting breaks, and some may also have online tools that you can use. In NYC the 311 system is utilized, which is online and an operator system. You should report the break immediately. The utility could get spammed with multiple reports or even not find out about the break for hours. Again, while they have technological systems, resident reports are often more effective.
It’s a good idea to store the number of your utility’s hotline in your phone, especially during the winter when water main breaks are more common. If you do lodge a complaint, be sure to keep a record of the complaint number for future reference. if you file your report t 311 online, you will likewise receive a 311 complaint number via email.
Be Careful Going Through any Running Water
If the water is more than a couple of inches deep, or flowing quickly, choose another route. Less than a foot of water is enough to damage a vehicle. One foot is enough for your car to float. While most water main breaks do not cause this level of flooding, some do. Another point of concern is that running water can mask a washout or undermine. You may think you’re stepping through a shallow puddle, only to inure yourself in a sink hole.
If it’s only a bit of water, drive through it slowly and use the center of the road. Also, be careful walking through running water, as you may slip. Be aware that if you have to come back that way, the flooding may be worse, or the road might be blocked off while they conduct repairs. In most cases, water main repairs only take a few hours, but some complex repairs may take several days. In most cases these visible leaks of fresh water are actually broken service lines belonging to a property owner. If you are this unlucky property owner, you will have to replace your water service line.
Water Main Breaks in Cold Weather pose a Particular Danger
In cold weather, residual water may turn into ice and make the road particularly treacherous. Dangerous situations such as icing may cause the DEP may excavate and shut off the leak. In the case of a private water service line, the residents will then be without water supply.
Check Notifications from your Utility
Once you get home, check with your utility via the 311 system. Always reference your complaint number with the operator, or online system. In many cases the 311 system will note if it was a water main break, or flooding from another source. However, they will not typically be able to tell if you are in the area affected by the break. The water utility has ways of quickly determining whether the flood is drinking water or groundwater and will act accordingly. In certain unique cases the local water authority can do water testing to pin point if the leaking water is potable water, waste water, or ground water. For instance, in rural areas, unexpected water may be irrigation runoff, and construction projects can also cause flooding.
In the case of a main water line break, you should minimize your use of water until the main is repaired. You should avoid showering, watering plants, or doing laundry, if possible. And as stated above, close your main control valve for your water supply line.
If a Water Main Break is Severe
If the break is severe, the DEP may have to turn your water off. You may also be put under a boil water advisory. A boil advisory occur if the water utility suspects that the break caused contamination. If your water is turned off, precautions have to be taken when service is resumed. Run the cold faucets (in all sinks or tubs) for a brief period, until the water runs clear. There may be mud and dirt in the water. Make sure to run cold water, as running hot water can cause debris to end up in your hot water tank. You should also expect there to be air bubbles in the water. Air in your water lines can cause water hammer. Therefore, when you re-open your water, do so very slowly to allow the air to escape.
In some cases, your utility may lower the pressure in the main. The lower pressure could result in a noticeable pressure loss for your faucets and shower. If you live in a high rise, you may also lose water in this situation. This is because some buildings have internal pumps, or rooftop water tanks. Pumps may shut down when the pressure drops, and rooftop tanks need time to refill.
The most important thing you should do if you notice or suspect a water main break in your neighborhood is to notify your utility. Resident reports help them make repairs quickly. If you have a water line problem at your home, however, you may be responsible for repairs. In that case, you should contact Balkan Sewer And Water Main Service to get a quote for the fix.