Follow The Correct Water Main Break Repair Procedure To Achieve A Happy Resolution

Water Main Service
March 26, 2018

by David Balkan

NYC street leak

New York water mains and water service lines are subject to damage, and stress. Likewise, they tend to frequently be near the end of their useful life expectancy. As a New Yorker, knowing proper water main break repair procedure can be a required skill set. Frequently part of being a New Yorker means learning about things you never wanted to know about!

In some cases one main water line serves thousands of people in apartments, condos, and townhouses. Even one water service line may serve hundreds of residents. Therefore, when a break occurs, it is no surprise that you are under a lot of pressure if you are the owner of the property. Adding to the age factor causing many water line breaks, are environmental factors as well. These include the seemingly endless deep freeze this year, and constant local construction projects.

Queens water main break
Ruptured water lines can create both havoc and damage

Knowing You have a water main break and what to do about it

There’s almost always the possibility that a water main leading to your home will burst, crack, or break. However, while water mains may be broken and repaired all the time, it is vital that you, your family, and your neighbors know how to do your part to make sure your next water main break repair is completed quickly and with minimal impact to services. That is when following a water main break repair procedure can save you from property damage, and expedite the work.

Signs of a Nearby Water Main Break

The first step to protecting yourself in the face of a water main break is to know the signs. Water main breaks most often do not result in a complete loss of water. Instead, what happens is that a pipe will have a small crack, and some of the water will spray out, while the rest continues down the line. In the case of most water leaks, there is no loss of water pressure at all. However, even in the case of a small leak, impurities can enter your drinking supply.

A crack in your water line presents an opportunity for pieces of broken pipe, rust, and outside debris to be sucked into your water supply system. Al items that aren’t supposed to be in your drinking water. In severe and rare cases enough dirt and soot can enter your plumbing to clog major sections of your system. In these cases, after the repair is done, a whole other plumbing repair must be undertaken to clean out your pipes.Ignoring the signs if you have an underground water main leak poses ramifications. Washouts, sink holes, property damage, and roadway collapses, are just some of the issues that can arise if you do not follow a proper water main break repair procedure.

clogged water line
Various issues can cause water line clogs including rust, corrosion, sediment, and dirt entering from a leak

For this reason, you can usually recognize a water main break in your home supply when you start to hear a hissing sound. This would suggest air in the pipes, or the vibration from the leak itself. Frequently the sound of a leak will become more evident at night, when typical daytime sounds quiet down. Of course, if you see silt, rust, small chunks of debris or sludge in your tap water, stop using your water immediately.

The obvious Signs if You Have a Water Main Break

Of course there are the obvious signs of a water main break. In these cases the usual first best step is to call 311.

  • Water running above the surface of your property, or public sidewalk or roadway.
  • A drop in water pressure throughout your home.
  • A discoloration in your drinking water when no construction is taking place nearby.
  • A loud rumbling sound on your plumbing.
  • Water present in your basement when there are no visible leaks, or recent rainfall.
underground water line leaks
Even small leaks will create a rumbling sound on your house plumbing

Locate the Problem and Arrange for Repairs

If you see any of the above signs, take a look to find your water service line. It is usually right near your water meter. In some cases, once you find your water service line, take a look now to see if you happen to be at the point where the break is. Because water mains serve so many people and travel the whole city underground, it is possible that you have the break but it is also likely to be anywhere else in the line ahead of you.When a water service line leak is not visible, trust a professional to make a positive determination. A DEP representative can be dispatched to your home if you call 311. Another option is calling a licensed water main contractor. Each has the experience, tools, and skill to confirm a water leak. In most cases it is best to call both. The DEP can verify a leak exists in writing. A water main contractor can provide a written diagnoses, and a cost of the repairs (if needed). Both parties do not charge for the site visit.

NYC street leak
Underground street leaks can cause roadway washouts

Who is responsible for a water service line break?

If you find the break on your property, and are a NYC resident, you will be responsible for the repairs. You will want to look into an experienced sewer and water main repair services contractor. If you cannot find the break connected to your property, report the break to the city by calling 311. Calling 311 is frequently a vital part of correct water main break repair procedure. An experienced DEP representative will arrive and take all appropriate steps to diagnose the leak. Fear not, a DEP investigation will never result in a fine. If it is your leak, you will receive a notice to repair it. Only in rare cases, when a leak is causing extreme damage or flooding, will the DEP shut your water off without notice.

Don’t Drink the First Water After A Repair Is Completed

Once your water main is repaired, water should start flowing normally through your home. Your water pressure should be restored, without the hissing and popping sounds of air also coming through the pipes. However, you cannot yet assume that your water is safe. Debris flowing through your pipes during the leak is likely to still be in your pipes. In addition, some dirt or sediment may have entered the new line during the installation. This makes the water potentially unsafe to drink, and inadvisable to bathe in. Moreover, it is not just shards of pipe and dirt, water from the break can also include contaminates like microbes, pathogens, dangerous chemicals and E coli.

Run The Plumbing Taps Throughout Your Home

To clear the pipes, the solution is to run all your taps for about five minutes. Start with the highest tap on the top floor, and then move through the house opening every tap, from the top to the bottom of the house. Bathtub faucets are the best because they can handle larger chunks of debris that may be in your pipes, and no not have aerators that can clog.  Make sure to switch the tub off from shower settings whenever possible. After five minutes, turn off the taps in reverse order from lowest to highest. Following this final step concludes the proper water main break repair procedure.Always remove the aerator and screens from any fixture before running the first draw of water. Also, do not flush a toilet immediately after a repair is completed. Components of a toilet can get clogged with soot or debris. wait until water runs free and clean from all fixtures before flushing a toilet.

Post Water Main Repair Clogs Or Blockages

In some rare cases you might need an additional kind of repair after a water main break has been addressed. Sometimes dirt, debris, sediment, or chunks of pipe, may wind up lodged in your home water system. These items  can clog the intake or the drains, depending on which pipes it came through and where it got stuck. If you are facing a weird clog after a water main break, call your local plumbing repair service to help you track it down and remove the obstacle. In some severe cases, pressurized air and water have to be used in combination to blow out clogged plumbing lines.

For more information about proper water main break repair procedure, please contact Balkan Sewer And Water Main today.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

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