Madison saw highest number of water main breaks in 33 years - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Madison's 2013 water main breaks were highest in 33 years


MADISON (WKOW) -- Utility crews are ramping up efforts to replace the 400 miles of stressed and brittle water mains in Madison that continue to fail with old age.

Madison Water Utility spokesperson Amy Barrilleaux tells 27 News 2013 was a record-breaking year for water main breaks. Crews repaired 306 breaks, which is up from 221 in 2012. It's the highest number of breaks since the utility began keeping records in 1980.

Since 2014 began, there have already been more than 30 breaks, including nine on Monday and three Tuesday. 

Barrilleaux says the pipes are old, built more than 60 years ago, and can't withstand the fluctuating temperatures any longer. Crews have been replacing a mile or two of mains every year, but have recently taken efforts to do more.

By the year 2020, the utility plans to replace more than 10 miles a year, at a cost of $12.7 million annually. The hope is to reduce the number of breaks, and lengthy repairs. Crews can sometimes be out 24 hours working on one break.

"Right now, we're spending about $1 million a year just fixing water mains, so we want to be in a situation where we're taking care of that problem," Barrilleaux tells 27 News.
The utility plans for that cost. It's built into the annual operating budget, but some of the cost of replacement is likely to be an added expense.
Barrilleaux expects Madison Water Utility to go to the Public Service Commission later this year to discuss options for payment, which could include a rate increase.
Madison isn't the only city dealing with problems. Milwaukee crews were out all day Tuesday also repairing at least four water main breaks due to old infrastructure affected by the cold temperatures.
Over the weekend, Verona crews responded to one break and Sun Prairie workers repaired several Tuesday.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison saw the highest number of water main breaks last year.

Madison Water Utility reported on Tuesday crews repaired 306 water main breaks in 2013. That's up from 221 in 2012, and it's the highest number since the Utility began keeping records in 1980.

The Utility says the spike in main breaks appears to be due to a combination of extreme weather and aging water infrastructure. Officials say as the ground freezes and thaws, soil expands and contracts, putting pressure on water pipes. Older pipes, particularly those made in the 1940s and 50s of a brittle material called spun cast iron, tend to break more often. Much of Madison's water main infrastructure dates back more than six decades.

Madison Water Utility is now looking at replacing or relining more than half the water mains.
In 2013, the Utility spent $7.5 million on main replacement. Spending will go up to more than $12.5 million by the year 2020. 


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