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Valley water main breaks focus scrutiny on DWP

September 9, 2009 |  5:39 pm

Los Angeles City Council members said Wednesday that they intend to more closely monitor upgrades to the city’s aging, leaky water system after pipes burst in the San Fernando Valley, inundating one neighborhood and causing a sinkhole in another that nearly swallowed a firetruck.

“Most folks recognize this as a wake-up call,” said  Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the Studio City and Valley Village neighborhoods where the ruptures created havoc, chewing up pavement and flooding homes and businesses.

Department of Water and Power officials say they do not think the incidents are connected. The burst pipe in Studio City was a trunk line installed in 1914; the sinkhole in Valley Village stemmed from a rupture to a 6-inch service line from 1969 that should have been good for several more decades.

But Koretz said he had a “lot of unanswered questions” about the incidents and the DWP's $4-billion program to replace miles of old, corroded pipe, including “how much of our infrastructure is ancient and how much should we be looking at replacing immediately.”

DWP officials defended their program, saying they intend to replace at least 32 miles of trunk line in the next few years. They have replaced nine miles in the last five years, they said.

To pay for that and other repairs, the City Council last year authorized rate increases of about $2 per month per customer. Councilwoman Jan Perry told DWP officials that she wants to make sure they focus their repairs on “those parts of the city that have the most aged water system.”

DWP Chief David Nahai pledged to provide much more detailed information to the council and the public about the water plan in the future. But he also said that age, while a factor in determining a pipe’s vulnerability, is not the sole criterion.

-- Jessica Garrison at L.A. City Hall and Ruben Vives in Studio City