Water main breaks in Downtown Berkeley, closing several city blocks

Donna McCracken/Courtesy

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Update 10/6/16: This story has been updated to reflect new information about repairs to the water main.

An 83-year-old, 12-inch cast iron water main broke in Downtown Berkeley on Tuesday afternoon, leaving dozens without water and several city blocks closed.

Berkeley Fire Department was dispatched at 12:21 p.m. to the break on University Avenue and Grant Street, according to a Berkeley Police Department advisory. The East Bay Municipal Utility District shut the water off about 2 p.m., EBMUD spokesperson Nelsy Rodriguez.

40 customers on Grant Street between University Avenue and Allston Way currently do not have running water, Rodriguez said. She added that EBMUD officials will be making repairs through the evening and are expected to be finished about 2 a.m.

“Oakland and Berkeley have a lot of very old pipes, and with old pipes come pipe failures,” Rodriguez said, adding that EBMUD has not used cast iron pipes since World War II.

Some areas experienced flooding, but storm drains and gutters effectively captured the runoff preventing property damage, according to BFD Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken. Multiple customers in the area reported low water pressure during the incident, but Rodriguez said only individuals in the shut-off zone should still be affected as of 4:20 p.m.

A power outage in the area began about 12:48 p.m., affecting 391 customers at its peak, according to PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian. Sarkissian added that the cause of the outage was likely underground equipment failure, but that PG&E is still determining if the outage was related to the water break. Power was restored to all customers by approximately 2:15 p.m, she said.

Authorities shut down University Avenue between McGee Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Addison Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and McGee Avenue, and southbound Berkeley Way to Addison Street, according to the advisory.

After EBMUD officials excavated the affected area and replaced the section of the leaking pipe, water was restored for the 40 customers about 7 a.m. Wednesday, said EBMUD spokesperson Tracie Morales.

Senior staff writer Alexander Barreira contributed to this report.

Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.