Cleveland Finds More Damage from Water Main Break

March 31, 2008

An aging water main that broke three weeks ago at a major downtown Cleveland, Ohio intersection, collapsing part of the street and flooding basements in at least four buildings, also caused other damage, city officials said.

The break on March 6 caused about 10 million gallons of water to spill out of a car-sized hole and onto surrounding streets in the Public Square area.

Construction and road crews at the site have also discovered there were breaks in two other water mains and damage to a sewer main, a gas line, electrical connections and various cables for utilities.

Thomas Grdina, manager at the nearby Standard Building, said he’s also concerned that an underground tunnel that was flooded and connects his building with another will lead to more road collapses. He said he warned Cleveland officials that the underground woes are more than they realize.

“My concern was that if the tunnel were to collapse, you’d have a street above that might collapse with it,” Grdina said.

City officials downplay any concern that the tunnel, built in 1924, might cave in.

“I’m refuting that in the strongest possible terms,” said Ken Silliman, chief of staff for Mayor Frank Jackson.

Larry Ho, the city’s structural engineer, inspected the tunnel and found water leakage and some deterioration, including cracks, but no risk of a collapse. The concrete walls, floor and ceiling were sound, except from some missing pieces, he said.

“I hired an engineer last week, and I’m waiting for his report, too, on that matter,” Grdina said. “We’re still getting water in this tunnel, which we have been pumping since March 6.

“Now I’m still concerned,” Grdina said. “I just want to make sure it’s safe.”

Silliman said Cleveland’s struggles with its underground infrastructure, including water pipes more than 100 years old, are no different from what exists in other cities across the nation. He said old just means the city needs be concerned with maintenance.

“To reach a conclusion that Cleveland has crumbling infrastructure is not an appropriate leap,” he said.

With 5,000 miles of pipe in Cleveland’s water system, breaks will happen, said Chris Nielson, the city’s water commissioner. He said more than 70 miles of pipes in the water systems are more than 125 years old.

He said repairs to the water main that broke March 6 — along with repairs to the intersection that caved in — could be completed in about three weeks. The cost could approach $1 million.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.