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Three more main breaks send water, mud spewing into L.A. streets

October 20, 2009 |  8:27 am


The rash of water-main breaks continued this morning, with at least three more ruptures causing flooding and street closures in the Hollywood Hills and South Los Angeles.

The main breaks were reported starting just before 2 a.m., pushing the tally of major blowouts in L.A.'s water system since Sept. 1 to at least 49.

A 12-inch steel water main ruptured about 2 a.m. at the 13600 block of Mulholland Drive near Beverly Ranch Road, sending water flowing down the street and causing minor street damage, said Gale Harris, a spokeswoman for the L.A. Department of Water and Power.

Authorities have closed Mulholland Drive from Coldwater Canyon Avenue to Benedict Canyon Drive as they work to repair the break and stem major flooding that has sent water into surrounding streets and homes.

Water main Minutes later, at 2:07 a.m., fire officials responded to a report of a possible sinkhole at 83rd and Wall streets in South Los Angeles. A 6-inch cast-iron water main had broken, spewing mud and debris into the street.

A third break was reported at 2:29 a.m. a few miles away at Florence and Van Ness avenues, officials said. A pipe burst in that intersection, breaking open the asphalt and lifting it up. The intersection has been closed while crews repair the damage.

Firefighters have responded to six separate reports of flooding since 12:30 a.m., several of which turned out to be minor, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott.

 One of them, reported in the 2900 block of Deep Canyon Drive at 1:55 a.m. was probably related to the Mulholland Drive break, he said.

The ongoing pipe blowouts, which have become a near-daily occurrence, flooding streets, buckling pavement and opening up sinkholes across the city, have puzzled Los Angeles officials, who are seeking explanations for the dramatic uptick.

City engineers are analyzing each break and have been taking soil samples and investigating whether Los Angeles' water rationing program, which allows sprinklers to run only on Mondays and Thursdays, could be to blame.

Earlier this month, the DWP enlisted the help of Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists, who are studying whether tectonic activity from recent earthquakes is partially to blame for the increased severity of the ruptures to Los Angeles' aging water system.

Officials have stressed that the city's 7,200 miles of pipe are not actually leaking more Water mainthan usual -- in fact, the number of leaks, about 1,400 a year, is down from the past — but as today has shown, recent bursts have gushed more and been more destructive. 

-- Tony Barboza

Photos: At top, Randy Cohen, who lives on Donington Place in Beverly Hills, looks at her neighbors' pool, flooded by mud from a water-main break on Mulholland Drive. Above left, water pools on Mulholland Drive near Benedict Canyon after crews shut off the water to a main that broke earlier in the morning. At right, a parking enforcement officer directs traffic at 83rd and Wall streets in South L.A. after an  early-morning main break. Credits: Top and left, Al Seib / Los Angeles Times. Right,  Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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